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Is sushi connected to salmonella outbreak in Mass. and elsewhere?

Jay Connor, The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

A total of 93 people and counting, including four in Massachusetts, have become sickened from an outbreak of Salmonella that appears to be linked to their consumption of sushi and other raw fish, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bulk of the cases have been reported in New York, though residents of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and 15 other states and the District of Columbia have been affected.

So far, government officials haven’t traced the outbreak to a particular food distributor or restaurant. “At the moment we don’t know the food source. It may or may not be sushi,” said Curtis Allen, spokesperson for the US Food and Drug Administration which is working with the CDC to investigate the outbreak. “As soon as we have valid information, we’ll get it out to the public.”


The outbreak became public on Wednesday when an internal FDA memo was inadvertently circulated throughout the entire agency; the memo mentioned the consumption of spicy tuna roll as being a common denominator in many of the cases, according to Allen.

At latest count, 10 people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the CDC’s website. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.

Salmonella outbreaks linked to sushi are rare, and Allen said there’s no reason to avoid eating it. Even if the infections are eventually traced to the raw fish, Allen said, it necessarily implicate the fish itself. “It would the way it was prepared or what it came in contact with such as the ice it was packed in.”

In recent years, salmonella outbreaks have occured in unusual foods like spinach and peanut butter, and the public was never told to wipe these foods from their diet. Raw chicken and eggs, on the other hand, are routinely infected with salmonella, and those we’re told to avoid consuming.


Here are more food safety tips from the CDC.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.