The CDC and FDA are continuing to work with state agencies to determine the scope and the source of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. In its June 5th update, CDC reported that 71 cases of lab-confirmed Salmonella Saintpaul illnesses have been linked to consumption of raw tomatoes in New Mexico (36 people) and Texas (35 people). Nineteen of the 71 victims have needed hospital care.
The number of cases in New Mexico is certain to grow, as the state is still awaiting lab results on several additional victims. The latest news (June 4th) from the New Mexico Department of Health indicates a total of 40 confirmed and suspected outbreak victims.
Meanwhile, 10 other states have reported a total of 34 cases of Salmonella illnesses, caused by the same strain as the one responsible for the New Mexico/Texas outbreak. Investigators are still working to determine whether any of these illnesses can be traced to raw tomatoes.
One California resident has been confirmed to be infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul. The California Department of Public Health is working to determine whether this person ate raw tomatoes within California or while traveling out of state. Additionally, an Oregon resident who visited southern California has also been infected with the outbreak strain.
FDA has posted a special web page dedicated to the tomato outbreak. This page includes a list of countries whose tomatoes have been cleared of any involvement in the current outbreak. Consumers, restaurant managers and food service operators who purchase raw tomatoes should consult this list and only buy tomatoes originating from one of these countries until the source of the outbreak has been determined.
Preliminary epidemiological information is pointing an accusatory finger at raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, vine-attached tomatoes, and home-grown tomatoes do not appear to be involved in the outbreak. Until more information is available, stick to one of the "safe" varieties – especially if the store has no information on where its tomatoes were grown.