Salmonella in tomatoes or something else?
Posted: June 30th, 2008 - 10:23pm by Doug PowellWith no end in sight, Elizabeth Weise of USA Today reports that suspicions are mounting that fresh unprocessed tomatoes aren't necessarily causing the salmonella outbreak that has sickened 851 people across the U.S., with the latest case beginning June 20.
Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of foodborne diseases, said CDC launched a new round of interviews over the weekend, adding,
"We're broadening the investigation to be sure it encompasses food items that are commonly consumed with tomatoes.”
Weise reports that if another food is found to be the culprit after tomatoes were recalled nationwide and the produce industry sustained losses of hundreds of millions of dollars, food safety experts say the public's trust in the government's ability to track foodborne illnesses will be shattered.
Michael Osterholm of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota, said,
"It's going to fundamentally rewrite how we do outbreak investigations in this country. We can't let this investigation, however it might turn out, end with just the answer of 'What caused it?' We need to take a very in-depth look at foodborne disease investigation as we do it today."
Jim Prevor, editor of Produce Business magazine, says tomatoes couldn't have caused an outbreak that has stretched from early April to late June.
"There's not a field in the world" that produces that long.
If not tomatoes, what else? "Something that people find difficult to remember but which is always served with tomatoes," says Tauxe.
That would put salsa, jalapeño peppers, green onions and cilantro at the top of the list of potential culprits, says Doug Powell, director of the International Food Safety Network at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.