Our recent coverage of tomatoes has evolved into one of those good news/bad news scenarios.

Before the salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of consumers, we published Growing Tasty, Juicy, Healthy Tomatoes. Shortly thereafter, we advised you on Selecting and Growing Heirloom Tomatoes. We’ve also reported on the rise in victory gardens, an organic solution to high food prices in an oil-driven world.

Here’s what’s been happening at the FDA since we published initial warnings.

  • Since mid-April, there have been 652 reported cases of salmonellosis nationwide, with at least 71reported hospitalizations.
  • The specific bacterium has been identified as Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, an uncommon type.
  • The FDA has completed the traceback for some of the tomatoes associated with the outbreak. The agency has traced the pathway of some tomatoes from the point of purchase or consumption to each point on the distribution chain to certain farms in Mexico and Florida.
  • Agents are now working to narrow the investigation, with teams of multidisciplinary experts in Mexico and Florida conducting inspections of the farms and critical supply-chain points where tomatoes may have become contaminated.
  • The FDA continues to collect tomato samples and conduct traceback activities, including investigation of a cluster of illnesses recently found in Texas. Agency heads hope this will provide additional information to isolate the exact source of contamination.
  • The FDA continues to update the list of areas not associated with the outbreak (see end of article for full list). Raw red plum (bottom photo), red Roma and red round tomatoes (top photo) harvested from these areas are acceptable to eat, the FDA says. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and tomatoes grown at home are not linked to the outbreak and can be eaten.
  • If you’re unsure of where your tomatoes are from, contact the store or place of purchase for this information. If you cannot determine the source, don’t eat the tomatoes. And remember: Raw tomatoes are often used in fresh salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo and tortilla fillings.

Tomatoes Harvested from These Areas Are Acceptable to Eat (Per FDA)

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, some Florida counties (Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Charlotte), Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, some Mexican states (Aguascalientes, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tobasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas), Netherlands, Puerto Rico.
 
Photos courtesy of the FDA