Tomatoes source of Salmonella outbreak

Attorney calls on tomato industry to make food safe for consumers

SEATTLE, WA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that at least 183 people in 18 states had been confirmed ill with Salmonellosis as part of a nation-wide outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium infections that has been traced to contaminated tomatoes. Twenty-two people were hospitalized during the outbreak, which peaked in September and is now over.

Bill Marler, a nationally recognized food safety advocate and attorney, called on the tomato industry to “clean up its act and make food safe.” Marler pointed to a February 2004 letter from the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA/CFSAN) that pointed to the FDA’s “concern regarding continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh lettuce and fresh tomatoes, and actions we recommend that your industries take to enhance the safety of these products,” and a May 2006 FDA/CFSAN publication of “Commodity specific food safety guidelines for the fresh tomato supply chain.”

“This is the second large outbreak in two years that has come on the heels of FDA advice on how to prevent outbreaks among consumers of fresh tomatoes,” Marler said. In June and July 2004, over 400 people became ill with Salmonella infections after eating contaminated tomatoes served at Sheetz convenience stores in the Eastern United States.

“Clearly, the fresh tomato industry has not yet done enough to ensure the safety of its product.”

Marler has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, including 93 victims of the most recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to contaminated spinach, 30 victims of a Salmonella outbreak traced to foods served at an Indiana Wal-Mart this summer, and 128 victims of the 2004 Sheetz Salmonella outbreak.

BACKGROUND: The attorneys at Marler Clark have extensive experience representing victims of foodborne illness. The firm has successfully represented victims of Salmonella poisoning related to contaminated sprouts, cantaloupe, cereal, orange juice, and other foods. The firm represented victims against Sun Orchard after the company’s orange juice was tied to a Salmonella outbreak. Marler Clark also settled the claims of victims who ate Salmonella-tainted pastries at Black Forrest bakery in Clinton Township, Michigan, and 70 victims of Salmonella poisoning at a country club in Rochester, New York. The firm represented 50 victims of the Chili’s Salmonella outbreak in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and has successfully represented over 1,000 victims of Salmonella poisoning in several other states.