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One of the largest foodborne illness outbreaks in recent history, the recent Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak in 2008 associated with produce, stymied many public health investigators, epidemiologists, and food industry experts for an extended period of time. First specific types of fresh tomatoes and then imported fresh peppers were implicated, and sources were difficult to pinpoint. Over 1300 individuals were documented with the foodborne infection across the U.S. and Canada. Portions of the fresh produce industry and international trade suffered significant financial damage. Import regulations and inspections are under comprehensive assessment and revision. Local, state and federal agencies experienced difficulties due to differing outbreak investigation methodologies and inconsistent, variably effective consumer communication. Federal and State legislators are proposing drastic changes in regulations. Furthermore, there was an ongoing suspicion throughout the investigation that the contamination may have been intentional, or at least highlighted the vulnerability in our surveillance and response systems. Obviously at this point a year after the initial presentation of the illnesses, many lessons have been learned and responses to the event are still unfolding.
Shaun Kennedy, Univ. of Minnesota
Frank Busta, Univ. of Minnesota
Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, University of Minnesota