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CDC declares outbreak over; danger of infections from tuna continues

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Public health officials continue to warn about food poisoning dangers in association with raw tuna served as sushi in the wake of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections.

“This outbreak appears to be over, but recalled frozen tuna may still be in freezers. People could get sick if restaurants and retailers who are unaware of the recall continue to serve and sell sushi made with recalled frozen tuna,” according to a notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Consumers who order sushi made with raw tuna, including ‘spicy tuna,’ should ask the restaurant or grocery store if the tuna is from Jensen Tuna. If you are not sure if the tuna has been recalled, do not eat it.”

As of Monday, 15 people had been confirmed with Salmonella infections in the eight-state outbreak, according to the CDC’s Wednesday outbreak update. The CDC first reported the outbreak on April 16.

Two of the outbreak patients were so sick they had to be hospitalized. No deaths were reported. Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 8 through March 31. The patients ranged in age from 24 to 85 years old.

Nine of 12 patients for whom the information was available reported eating sushi from a restaurant or grocery store in the days before they became ill. Of the nine people, all reported eating a sushi item containing raw tuna or raw “spicy tuna.” 

The CDC worked with state officials and investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the outbreak investigation. The agencies identified ground, raw tuna imported by Jensen Tuna Inc. of Houma, LA, as the most likely source of the Salmonella Newport that sickened the outbreak victims.

“The FDA and regulatory officials in several states traced the source of the raw tuna used by restaurants where ill people ate sushi. The traceback evidence indicated that the restaurants used frozen ground tuna supplied by Jensen Tuna,” according to the CDC’s outbreak update.

On April 15, after discussions with state and federal officials, owners of Jensen Tuna recalled frozen ground tuna imported from JK Fish of Vietnam.

The recalled tuna was packaged in 1-pound bags and sold in 20-pound boxes under lot numbers z266, z271, and z272, according to the company recall posted by the FDA. Jensen Tuna distributed product to Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, and Washington, but product could have been redistributed further, reaching additional states.

In connection with the outbreak investigation, the FDA issued an import alert on JK Fish of Vietnam, meaning fish from the company is being detained at U.S. ports of entry.  

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