Salmonella outbreak probe not finished, FDA says

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yesterday it has not completed its investigation of a summer salmonella outbreak in Pennsylvania, nor has it cleared any company of responsibility.

"We haven't implicated anyone, nor absolved anyone," said Michael Herndon, an FDA spokesman.

Herndon would not comment directly on a news release issued Thursday by Coronet Foods of Wheeling, W.Va. that said an FDA report found no objectionable conditions at its processing facility.

A Coronet spokesman said yesterday that the company did not say in its news release that it had been cleared by FDA.

Coronet distributed sliced Roma tomatoes that were used in sandwiches sold at Sheetz convenience stores and 330 Pennsylvanians who ate the sandwiches got sick with salmonella. The outbreak is thought to have sickened another 80 people in neighboring states.

The company this week received results of an inspection report completed by FDA July 20-26, said Alicia Thayer, quality assurance manager and director of food safety for Coronet.

The agency tested food contact and nonfood contact surfaces as well as samples of shredded lettuce, diced and sliced globe tomatoes, unprocessed Roma tomatoes and sliced Roma tomatoes.

Those tests were performed two or three weeks after patients started getting sick, but Thayer said an FDA inspection on July 13 also found no evidence of salmonella contamination at the processing facility.

Two lawsuits have been filed as a result of the outbreak, both targeting Coronet.