Health officials say nobody at the convenience stores is responsible for the salmonella bacteria, which is believed to have been on tomatoes and lettuce served on deli sandwiches made at 16 Sheetz stores in the Pittsburgh area and along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Instead, the food was likely contaminated when it came from a supplier -- which hasn't been identified. Health officials say they expect the number of cases to increase, and they're trying to determine if some cases in West Virginia or Maryland are related to the Pennsylvania outbreak.
Salmonellosis usually isn't fatal, but can cause severe diarrhea and cramps for about three days. It can be life-threatening in serious cases, however, or if the person who has it has a weak immune system.
Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz operates more than 300 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The company changed its tomato supplier and pulled tomatoes and lettuce from its stores before disinfecting them and re-supplying them. The stores don't sell the produce separately.
Sheetz put out a press release ensuring that it is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. "While we do not have final confirmation on the source at this time, we continue to take steps to ensure the safety of all products sold in our stores," said Steve Sheetz, chairman. "We are dedicating all resources necessary to resolve the situation quickly, completely and comprehensively. The well-being and safety of our customers and employees is our absolute priority."
The release added that Sheetz will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and other regulatory officials to resolve the situation as soon as possible.