ATLANTA -- Contaminated Roma tomatoes caused three outbreaks of salmonella infections that sickened more than 500 people last year, including one outbreak linked to the Sheetz convenience store chain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed.
In the CDC's report, released this month, the agency noted the outbreaks consisted of 561 cases of salmonella illnesses in 18 states and one Canadian province. Although a single tomato-packing house in Florida was common in all outbreaks, other growers or packers may have supplied the contaminated Roma tomatoes that resulted in some of the illnesses, the CDC said.
As a result of the outbreaks, 2004 had the highest number of recorded annual salmonella infections associated with tomatoes, the CDC said. In fact, tomato-associated salmonella outbreaks reported to the CDC have been increasing in frequency and magnitude in recent years. Tomatoes were responsible for causing 1,616 reported illnesses, and possibly as many as 60,000 unreported illnesses, in nine outbreaks that occurred from 1990 to 2004, the agency said. About 5 billion pounds of fresh tomatoes are eaten every year in the United States.