Surprise Arizona Salmonella Scare Yields Negative Results

PHOENIX -- Samples from the home of the Surprise, Ariz. man, who claimed last week to be making salmonella and tampering with food products -- especially Gerber Baby Juice -- were negative for salmonella bacteria, the Arizona Department of Health's (ADHS) State Public Health Lab said yesterday.

Supermarkets in the area pulled the product from the shelves because of the potential threat, but a concerted public relations effort on the part of these grocers prevented widespread panic. "In each of the stores, they would tell customers they were out of stock, but not about the alleged threat," industry consultant R. Roger Romwell, who lives in Surprise, told Progressive Grocer.

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As a matter of precaution, the State Public Health Lab, with assistance from the L.A. County Public Health Lab, also tested several samples from the man's home for a full spectrum of other bacteria and toxins, and all tests were negative.

As part of a multiagency investigation, FBI and Surprise police requested the State Public Health Lab to test the substances because of the man's claims of tampering. As a matter of precaution, authorities asked some stores near the man's home to remove the Gerber Baby Juice products from their shelves. However, authorities report no evidence confirming food tampering. In addition, there are no reported illnesses related to the case. With tests indicating negative results, all products can be returned to shelves for sale to the public.

"There is no public health threat," said Susan Gerard, ADHS director. "We are proud of the assistance our State Public Health Lab can provide to law enforcement in these types of situations. This illustrates ADHS' responsiveness to the needs of law enforcement in Arizona and to the needs of our citizens."

--Joseph Tarnowski
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