Investigators from the FDA and CDC continue to test tomotoes from across the country in order to find the source of the salmonella outbreak. 810 cases in 36 states have been reported from the Saintpaul strain of salmonella. This is a rare strain that usually contributes to less than 400 cases a year. One of the issues in finding the source is the practice of repacking tomatoes.
Distributors frequently repack tomatoes to meet the needs of commercial customers, such as restaurant chains, that demand that each box contain vegetables of similar size and ripeness.
Not only does repacking make it harder to figure out where a bad tomato may have been grown, it raises the prospect that consumers who think they are buying produce from one of the many designated “safe” states – California is one of them – may be getting tomatoes comingled with produce from other regions.
It was originally believed that the source was tomatoes from Mexico or Florida. The harvests in those areas is over and the number of salmonella cases continue to rise. Investigators are starting to look into other sources of the contamination rather than tomatoes. It is still a strong common denominator in all of the reported cases though. Salmonella can cause vomitting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.