Hour Two: Government Reports New Salmonella Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control has learned of more than 100 new salmonella cases. The current outbreaks have been linked to tainted tomatoes.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, Firefox 3. I'm Mike Pesca. It's Thursday, June 19th.

You know, Firefox, the web browser. Did you think I meant "Firefox," the Clint Eastwood movie? You know, where a pilot is sent to the Soviet Union on a mission to steal a prototype fighter jet that can partially be controlled by a "neuralink"? Were you thinking of that "Firefox"? Isn't it funny when things pop up in the news, and you're like, wait a minute, like the old movie from the '80s?

That recently happened when the governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, got enmeshed in a prostitution scandal, and the name of the prostitution ring was the Emperor's Club. And for a second, I bet a lot of people thought, wait a minute, like the Kevin Kline movie, wherein he is a kindly high-school teacher? Oh no, not that "Emperor's Club." It's harder to predict what current movies will one day wind up in another context. Although, if I were to look into my crystal ball, I wouldn't be surprised if some future administration were, in fact, felled by the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," though, you never know.

Drugs, gambling and horse deaths are at-issue today when Congress considers thoroughbred racing. I'll talk with Alex Waldrop of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. And news out of Afghanistan says the Taliban is making a comeback. But a Harvard senior fellow says, don't call it a comeback. So we'll talk with professor L.L. Cool J - no, actually, he's a different guy, but he's counted all the insurgencies and he had some really interesting statistics. He thinks it's just a matter of time before the Taliban is crushed.

And we'll have Nerdfest Throwdown 2008 when I battle BPP editor Trish McKinney in a vocab tournament. Play at home, if you circumnavigate. All that, plus today's headlines, and the word on the new Firefox web browser in just a minute, but first...

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PESCA: Three hundred eighty-three cases of salmonella linked to tomatoes. That's the new number released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday. The outbreak stretches across thirty states and the District of Columbia.

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Dr. ROBERT V. TAUXE (Deputy Director, Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) We do not think the outbreak is over.

PESCA: That's Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC. The new number is an increase of over 100 cases over what was known earlier this week. Tauxe says that most of those got sick weeks ago, and the jump is due to better reporting and testing. At least 48 victims have been hospitalized, the CDC says.

No deaths have officially been blamed on the outbreak, but a salmonella infection may have been a factor in the death of a Texas man also suffering from cancer. The FDA is warning consumers against eating the potential bad tomatoes, raw, red plum, red Roma, and round, red tomatoes grown in Florida or Mexico. David Acheson is tracking the outbreak for the FDA. He spoke with NPR yesterday.

(Soundbite of NPR's All Things Considered, June 18, 2008)

Dr. DAVID ACHESON (Director, Food Safety and Security Staff, U.S. Food and Drug Administration): Tracking tomatoes is really hard, because there are so many different arms and legs to tomato supply chains. I want to raise certainly that the possibility that we may not identify a farm where this happened.

PESCA: Acheson talked about tomato forensics, which got us here at the BPP excited about the idea of "Tomato: CSI," which does not involve David Caruso in any way. And it pretty much goes like this. Investigators follow an ever-branching chain from sick person to the restaurant or grocer where they got their tomato. Then they track down each of that restaurant or grocer's many suppliers. Then it goes to each of those suppliers' many distributors.

Dr. ACHESON: You go back to a distributor and you say, well, where do you get your tomatoes from? And they say, well, in this timeframe, we usually get them from these four growers. The web widens.

(Soundbite of song "Who Are You?")

THE WHO: (Singing) Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who are you?

PESCA: Townshend, Daltrey and the boys commenting, though not actually in the room while Acheson was speaking. Acheson says the many distributors and the perishability (ph) of tomatoes add to the mystery of the outbreak's origin. You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines with a man currently pumping his fists in the control booth, the BPP's Matt Martinez.

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