The FDA spoke to members of the press to provide an update on the salmonella outbreak that has been linked to raw tomatoes.
The number of states with confirmed cases of the salmonella strain is up to 23 and the total number of people who have fallen ill is 220. The six additional states are Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Tennessee and Vermont.
The agency was quick to point out that where the illnesses are occurring has no relation to the source of the outbreak, since tomatoes are shipped all over the country.
The FDA has explained that cherry and grape tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached are safe to eat. Red Roma, plum, and red round tomatoes are still being investigated as the source of the outbreak, but are safe to eat if they come from one of the regions that the FDA has cleared. The list is continually updated on the FDA's website, and most recently Utah, Washington, Virginia, and Massachusetts were added to the list of states that were no longer considered to be a potential source of the outbreak.
While the FDA still cannot say where the contaminated tomatoes came from, the agency insists it's getting closer. Parts of Mexico and Florida remain on the list of possible sources, since they provided most of the tomato crop at the time of the outbreak. Some parts of Mexico were not harvesting tomatoes during the time of the outbreak, but others have not yet been cleared, such as the Baja area.
Until the FDA pinpoints the source, the agency advises discarding any suspect tomatoes if you're unsure where they came from. Ask at the grocery store where the tomatoes are from if it isn't clear.
Meanwhile, the outbreak has prompted the Consumers Union to call for the FDA to increase inspections of food processing plants and for Congress to grant the agency broad mandatory recall authority, according to a press release.
Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, was quoted: "The FDA needs to be much more effective in enforcing food safety standards. We are in a global economy, with tomatoes from Mexico and fish from China for sale on a daily basis in our supermarkets. FDA needs to be upgraded and modernized to meet these challenges."
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