Today’s Altoona Mirror reported on a hearing yesterday regarding the Sheetz Salmonella outbreak of 2004.  At yesterday’s hearing, a Blair County Judge dismissed eight defendants from the case, stating that Sheetz and the company who supplied Salmonella-contamianted tomatoes to Sheetz, Coronet Foods, had not provided enough proof to implicate one or more Coronet suppliers as the source of the contaminated tomatoes.

From the Mirror:

President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva said in an opinion that “it is impossible to track back and differentiate which particular supplier sold the one or many contaminated tomato[es].”

For the sake of consumer protection and safety, she called for better record keeping from the farm to the salad bar.

Sheetz Salmonella outbreak background

In early July 2004, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDOH) notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that an apparent foodborne outbreak was occurring and that cases of Salmonella javiana might be reported in other states. Active case finding was expanded to include nearby states. Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia all reported an increase in Salmonella javiana cases.

On July 16, 2004 when the PDOH issued a Health Advisory, stating that an outbreak of Salmonella javiana with more than 70 reported cases had been associated with eating at Sheetz deli counters throughout the state. On July 30, 2004, the PDOH issued a new Health Update regarding the outbreak. Over 300 cases had been reported in Pennsylvania, and dozens more in adjoining states, and yet another related Health Update on August 6, 2004. By then, over 330 cases of Salmonella javiana had been recorded in Pennsylvania, and over 80 cases in neighboring states.

Ultimately, as many as 564 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with consumption of contaminated tomatoes were reported in five states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. Seventy percent were associated with tomatoes in food prepared at Sheetz convenience stores, which received tomatoes from Coronet Foods of Wheeling, West Virginia. Five separate serotypes of Salmonella were eventually associated with the outbreak.