Want a McDonald’s hamburger? No sliced tomatoes for you. How about a Panera Bread Frontega Chicken Sandwich? Hope you like chicken and bread. Wherever you go for lunch, don’t even ask for the summery favorite tomato and fresh mozzarella Capri salad.
Tomatoes have been pulled off shelves and menus nationwide after the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to purchase or eat certain tomatoes and tomato products in the wake of a nationwide salmonella outbreak.
This outbreak occurred less than a year after the FDA launched its “Tomato Safety” Initiative, a risk-based strategy to reduce food borne illness.
At least 167 people have been infected since mid-April with the uncommon strand of salmonellosis called Salmonella Saintpaul, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
It is a radically different number than the three reported infected with the same strand this time last year.
The CDC says that more than those reported were likely infected as well. At least 23 people have been hospitalized.
Preliminary analysis by the FDA suggests that the outbreak is linked to raw red plum, raw red Roma, and raw round red tomatoes.
The FDA does not believe that cherry, grape or vine-attached or home-grown tomatoes have been affected.
The government warns that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part of fillings for tortillas, and are used in other dishes.
The typical symptoms of those infected with salmonella are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps anywhere from 12-72 hours after infection, and they usually last for 4-7 days. Most recover without treatment, but severe infections may occur, sometimes leading to death, the CDC said.
The specific source of the outbreak is under investigation, the FDA said.