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2 More States, Part of Mexico Ruled Out as Salmonella Source
Date:6/16/2008

FDA says Florida and Mexico supplied bulk of tomatoes when outbreak began

MONDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- New Mexico, Indiana and one state in Mexico have been cleared as a source of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes that have sickened 228 people in 23 U.S. states since April, according to published reports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now exonerated 37 states, Puerto Rico and parts of Florida as the source of the outbreak, according to the agency Web site. Six countries -- Belgium, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, and the Netherlands -- also have been ruled out as a contamination source.

The state of Baja California was the first area in Mexico to be certified safe, according to the FDA. Tomatoes grown there can only be exported to the United States if the state agriculture agency has inspected them. Mexico, which harvested 2.3 million metric tons of tomatoes in 2007, accounts for 84 percent of the tomatoes shipped to the United States, Bloomberg News said.

On Friday, the FDA said the bulk of the tomatoes available in the United States at the start of the ongoing salmonella outbreak came from Mexico and Florida.

"The vast majority of tomatoes in national distribution at that time were being produced in one of those two places," Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for food protection at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said during an afternoon teleconference.

The northern part of Florida has been excluded from the list of possible origins of the outbreak, although central and southern Florida are still a question mark, Acheson added.

Officials also believe it very likely that the contamination arose from one source.

"One thing you learn in science is never to say never. But, based on probabilities, it's extremely likely that the same genetic fingerprint would have come from the same place at the same time," Acheson
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