New Mexico Salmonella Outbreak Tied to Raw Tomatoes

New Mexico health officials have announced that uncooked tomatoes appear to be the source in the salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 31 people since early May. The specific strain—known as salmonella St. Paul—has infected residents of seven New Mexico counties: Dona Ana, Socorro, Curry, McKinley, San Juan, Bernalillo, and Sandoval. Nearby states including Texas, Utah, and Colorado, and Arizona have reported infections by salmonella St. Paul, and investigations are continuing.

The current outbreak has been linked to tomatoes sold at Wal-Marts in Las Cruces and Farmington, a Lowe’s in Las Cruces, and a Basha’s in Crownpoint. However, the Health Department says that other stores are very probably selling the tainted tomatoes, and they recommend that all tomatoes be washed thoroughly or cooked before consumption.

“The link between tomatoes and salmonella has been around a long, long time,” food borne illness attorney William Marler said on his blog, “Over the years, we have represented hundreds of people infected by salmonella on raw tomatoes. It’s vital that we not only assist those who have been sickened, but also continue to press our leaders for better monitoring of our food supply.”

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the most common intestinal illnesses in the US: salmonellosis infection. Symptoms of salmonellosis can begin 6 to 72 hours from consumption, and include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting. Dehydration is a concern, especially with the elderly, very young, or immune compromised. In mild cases of infection, symptoms subside in 5-7 days, but some can develop serious complications, so a doctor visit is recommended.

Consumers should ask their healthcare providers to culture a stool sample. The culture will indicate if salmonella is present and can assist in determining if the illness is part of the larger outbreak. Tips on avoiding salmonella infection can be found on the Marler Clark informational website, along with more detailed information on symptoms and treatment.