He also said that it was possible that tomatoes were contaminated at a packing and distribution center, not a particular farm. That means that produce from states that have been cleared may have gone through packing or distribution houses elsewhere, and become contaminated there.
The food poisoning scare ranks as the largest on record in terms of illnesses linked to tainted produce, the CDC said. "This is so far the biggest outbreak with this number of illnesses confirmed by culture," Griffin noted.
More than 300 of the total cases from the current outbreak have come from Texas. Patient ages range from under 1 year old to 99 years old. Half the victims are women.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea in humans. Some 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year, although the CDC estimates that because milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be 30 or more times greater. Approximately 600 people die each year after being infected.
However, the strain of Salmonella Saintpaul had been previously considered rare. In 2007, according to the CDC, there were only three people infected in the country during April through June.
Visit the CDC for more on the salmonella outbreak.
SOURCES: July 1, 2008, teleconference with David Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Robert Tauxe, M.D. deputy director of foodborne, bacterial and mycotic diseases division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; June 27, 2008, teleconference with Patricia Griffin, M.D., chief, Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, CDC; and David Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods, FDA
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