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FDA Narrowing Tainted Tomato Probe to One Cluster
Date:6/16/2008

Won't identify where, but calls it 'most fruitful' lead in ongoing investigation into salmonella outbreak

MONDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- Although a U.S. government investigation into salmonella-tainted tomatoes has not yet identified a specific source for the contamination, health officials said Monday they are now focusing their trace-back efforts on one cluster of nine cases in one location.

"The cluster is linked to the same geographic location, and all [victims] are appearing to have consumed similar types of tomatoes," Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for food protection at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told reporters at a teleconference. "We're not there yet on the cluster, but I'm hopeful that this is our most fruitful lead to date on the trace-back."

Officials would not divulge the location of the cluster or comment on whether the cluster was the same one reported in an email by the top FDA official on Friday. That cluster involved nine victims who ate at two restaurants in the same chain, which health officials refused to name.

On Monday, they would only say that the outbreak, which so far has sickened 228 in 23 states, appears to be diverse in its origins.

"There is no one chain of restaurants or supermarkets or retail stores that ties this all together," said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the OutbreakNet Team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "We have seen it from people who have consumed [tomatoes] in homes, in restaurants; no one individual or grocery chain that accounts for all of the cases. With that said, there have been clusters noticed such as the one we're discussing right now."

And Williams said that the outbreak is still considered "ongoing."

"The last illness onset was June 1, but that may well change when we update the numbers [of victims] this afternoon," he added. "We are still characterizing this outbreak as o
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