Regulators lift tomato Salmonella warning

LOS ANGELES Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:25am IST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Thursday lifted a warning on tomatoes and repeated a warning on peppers as the possible cause of an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in which more than 1,200 people have reported getting sick.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration repeated its warning that young children, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems should avoid fresh jalapeno and Serrano peppers.

Regulators have struggled to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, which has raised questions about U.S. food safety and prompted lawmakers to demand new systems to trace fresh produce from farm to table.

FDA said it removed the tomato warning because there are no longer any tomatoes coming into the market from producers that were being looked at as possible sources of contamination.

"Tomatoes that are currently on the market in the U.S. are safe to consume," David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the FDA, said in a conference call.

The warning had been in place since June 7 and regulators subsequently traced the outbreak back to April.

"This is not saying that anybody was absolved," Acheson said.

Regulators never found Salmonella Saintpaul at any tomato farms or packing plants, even though early indicators pointed to tomatoes as the source of illness.

In addition to the hot peppers, food safety officials are investigating whether cilantro played a role in the outbreak.

"We still do not know where the original contamination point was," Acheson said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; Editing by David Gregorio)

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