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Protect yourself from salmonella infection from tomatoes

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


People in 17 states have been diagnosed with foodborne illness contaminated with Salmonella since mid-April. The food source of this illness is raw tomatoes. It is important to know which tomatoes are considered to be dangerous.


According to the Food and Drug Administration, tomatoes that should be avoided include raw red plum tomatoes, raw red Roma tomatoes, and raw red round tomatoes. These types of tomatoes are considered safe if they come from one of the following areas: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Belgium, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico.


Some types of tomatoes have not been associated with foodborne illness from salmonella. The tomatoes that are considered safe to eat include cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and any tomatoes that are home grown.


Since April, 167 people in 17 states have been infected with the Salmonella saintpaul, a rare strain of Samlonella. There have been no reports of salmonella in Missouri but people from neighboring states including Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois have been affected.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC) people who have been infected with salmonella develop symptoms from 12-72 hours after infection. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days and most people recover without treatment. In some instances, the diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is required. Older adults, young children and people with impaired immune systems are the people more likely to develop severe symptoms.


Other than limiting the type of tomatoes to the type that have not been linked to salmonella, the CDC recommends that everyone practice safe food handling techniques for tomatoes. This includes refrigerating tomatoes within two hours after cutting, peeling or cooking; do not purchase bruised or damaged tomatoes; thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water; keep tomatoes separated from raw meats, and be sure to wash cutting boards with hot soapy water between switching between types of food products.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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