Salmonella Warning On Tomatoes Lifted

The U.S. government says it is safe to eat tomatoes again. It lifted its salmonella warning after its investigation of what caused the outbreak found no evidence of the bacteria. Investigators are now taking their search to a packing facility in Mexico.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Go ahead. Eat that tomato. Today, the Food and Drug Administration said it is okay to consume all types of fresh tomatoes after the salmonella scare. The FDA is still investigating whether some people got sick because of jalapeno peppers. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.

ALLISON AUBREY: In the early weeks of the salmonella outbreak, federal health officials thought they had a solid lead, linking tomatoes to these sicknesses. Lots of people they interviewed who got sick reported eating specific types of tomatoes. But when investigators tried to follow the production and distribution trails on these tomatoes to find the source of the bacterium, David Atchison of the FDA says they found nothing.

Dr. DAVID ATCHISON (The Federal Food and Drug Administration): We found no evidence of contamination with salmonella Saintpaul, the outbreak strain, during those investigations.

AUBREY: As investigations continued, they identified clusters of people exposed on the same day, the same time, who reported eating fresh jalapeno peppers. And now, the search for the bacteria is taking investigators to a packing facility in Mexico - a lead that may pan out or not.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News, Washington.

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FDA Lifts Salmonella Warning On Tomatoes

It's OK to eat all kinds of tomatoes again, the U.S. government declared Thursday — lifting its salmonella warning on the summer favorites amid signs that the record outbreak, while not over, may finally be slowing.

Hot peppers still get a caution: The people most at risk of salmonella — including the elderly and people with weak immune systems — should avoid fresh jalapenos and serranos, and any dishes that may contain them such as fresh salsa, federal health officials advised.

Investigators still don't know what caused the salmonella outbreak, which now has sickened 1,220 people in 42 states — the earliest falling ill on April 10 and the latest so far on July 4.

But Thursday's move, coming as the tomato industry estimates its losses at more than $100 million, doesn't mean that tomatoes harvested in the spring are cleared. It just means that the tomatoes in fields and stores today are safe to eat, said Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration's food safety chief.

"This is not saying that anybody was absolved," Acheson said. But, "as of today, FDA officials believe that consumers may now enjoy all types of fresh tomatoes available without concern of becoming infected with salmonella Saintpaul," the outbreak strain.

— From The Associated Press.

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