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PITTSBURGH -- Pennsylvania health authorities released results of a study Friday indicating that Roma tomatoes were the likely cause of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 280 people in five states, reported the Associated Press.
No tests have pinpointed the cause, but food histories of those who ate at Sheetz convenience stores and got sick -- and those who ate there and didn't get sick -- indicate that the tomatoes were the likely source, said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the state Health Department.
The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that 289 people from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia have been sickened since July 2.
Hundreds of samples of tomatoes and lettuce from Sheetz have been tested. Only tests on an unopened bag of tomatoes were positive for salmonella, but not the strain responsible for the recent outbreak.
On Friday, state officials said they were testing additional food samples, but McGarvey cautioned that it would not be not unusual if the direct cause were not found. "What oftentimes happens is that what's been contaminated is used up," McGarvey said.
Those who got sick ingested a strain of salmonella usually found on produce, and all those sickened in Pennsylvania bought sandwiches from one of at least 16 Sheetz stores, company officials have said.
"The results announced today reinforce that it is safe to eat at Sheetz," said Steve Sheetz, chairman of the Altoona, Pa.-based company, in a statement Friday night. He added that the company removed the tomatoes before being asked to do so by the health department.
The supplier of the Roma tomatoes, Wheeling, W.Va.-based Coronet Foods, has said that tests turned up no contamination at its processing plant, but suspended purchasing and processing of the tomatoes.