According to State Health Department official Nanci Gonder, the State Public Health Lab says there have been six cases of salmonella that fall into the same timeframe but are currently not counted as part of the outbreak. The State Health Department and Office of Senior Services advise Missourians to be careful which tomatoes they eat, and limit their tomato consumption to those that are not the likely source of the outbreak.
Both fast food restaurants in Thayer, McDonalds and Dairy Queen have quit using tomatoes at the present time. Both restaurants have posted a paper saying they are not using tomatoes.
Dairy Queen Manager Laura Wallace said a district representative from Springfield called her store June 9 and told her to get rid of any tomatoes in the store. "We threw away about six cases of tomatoes," she said.
Shirley Hollis, Manager of McDonalds said she could not talk to the press about the tomato situation at her store but did give a public relations number in Illinois but no calls were returned by McDonalds.
The page posted on the Thayer McDonalds front door said, "Tomato notification. In support of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation that consumers in New Mexico and Texas temporarily not eat certain types of tomatoes, McDonalds is temporarily not serving sliced tomatoes on any of our sandwiches across the United States. Please note this is a precautionary measure only and McDonalds has not experienced any related issues to date. We are continuing to serve grape tomatoes in our salads as the FDA indicates there are no issues with grape tomatoes. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank your for your understanding."
Gonder said generally, the tomatoes in question are raw red plum, Roma or round cherry tomatoes that have come from unapproved areas. She said those that are alright to eat include cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and those sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes.
"Currently we are working with the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA and a number of other states to try and determine the source of the outbreak. In the meantime, limit your consumption of raw tomatoes to those from the FDA's approved list," Gonder said.
State Health Department officials are warning the salmonella organism could actually be inside the tomatoes themselves and no amount of washing will clean that away.
Local Health Department Administrator Shiela Russell said that salmonella infections are marked by diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that can start anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after exposure. The symptoms can last for four to seven days. Russell said although most people recover without treatment, severe infections might occur.
"Infants and elderly persons and those with an impaired immune system are more likely than others to develop severe illness," Russell said.
She said when severe infection occurs, salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites, and can cause death. Russell said in these severe cases, antibiotic treatment may be necessary.
In addition to the cautions for this salmonella outbreak, people are generally advised to:
* Refrigerate tomatoes within two hours or discard cut, peeled or cooked tomatoes.
* Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.
*Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
* Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw, separate from raw meats, raw seafood and raw produce items.
* Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.