The United States Food and Drug Administration said it hoped to pinpoint soon the source of a salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes that has made at least 167 people ill in 17 states. The outbreak has spurred restaurants and grocery stores to take certain kinds of raw tomatoes off menus and shelves.
Meanwhile, Florida tomato growers were facing a virtual industry shutdown after fast-food restaurant chains, including McDonald's and Burger King, and supermarkets decided to no longer offer tomatoes. Florida is the nation's top supplier of tomatoes.
The FDA has advised consumers to avoid certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes and products containing them. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and ones sold with the vine attached are not connected to the outbreak.
There have been 13 multistate outbreaks of salmonella poisoning associated with tomatoes since 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In November 2007, the FDA issued a “food protection plan,” but the Bush administration did not ask for money to finance parts of it until June 9. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said he would change the administration's budget request by seeking another $275 million for next year, $125 million of which would be devoted to food protection.
U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA, said administration delays in seeking money for food protection efforts amounted to “criminal negligence.”
Not associated with the current outbreak are tomatoes grown in: Arkansas, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, the Netherlands, and Puerto Rico.