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Texas targets raw tomatoes in salmonella outbreak

An outbreak of salmonella bacteria in raw tomatoes has prompted an investigation by federal, state and local authorities in a multi-state area including Texas, officials said Tuesday.

Texas Department of State Health Services officials have confirmed 21 cases in Texas since mid-April, one in Tarrant County and three in Dallas County. Harris County has reported the most at 13. Illnesses have been reported in Fort Bend, Hays and Cameron counties. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses also have been reported in New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Illinois and Indiana.

Health officials said raw tomatoes are the likely sources of the infections. Authorities were trying to determine the specific types and source of suspect tomatoes.

Until the specific source of the illness is determined, health officials recommended that residents not eat any raw tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home.

TDSHS officials also advised to:

  • Cook tomatoes at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds to kill salmonella.
  • Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.
  • Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
  • Refrigerate within two hours or discard cut, peeled or cooked tomatoes.
  • Keep tomatoes that will be eaten raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood and other raw produce items.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water especially after going to the restroom, before preparing or serving food and after changing a diaper.
  • Health officials noted that symptoms of salmonella infection include headache, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Generally, the illness lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.