updated 6/26/2008 5:51:34 PM ET 2008-06-26T21:51:34

The official toll from salmonella-tainted tomatoes continues to rise: The government counted 756 confirmed illnesses Thursday.

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That’s roughly 200 more illnesses than health officials had counted a week ago, in what has become the nation’s largest-ever outbreak of salmonella from tomatoes.

The continuing rise in cases is due mostly to state laboratories finishing backlogs of tests, not lots of new infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The latest known illness occurred on June 13.

The outbreak’s source remains a mystery. Food and Drug Administration investigators have spent the past week inspecting farms in parts of Florida and Mexico and the warehouses and other stops those farms’ tomatoes made on the way to market.

The government continues to urge consumers nationwide to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that FDA has cleared of suspicion. Check FDA’s Web site — http://www.fda.gov — for an updated list. Also safe are grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.

At least 95 people have been hospitalized, the CDC said. No deaths have been attributed to the outbreak, although it may have contributed to a death due to cancer.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection causing fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, often caused by eating foods contaminated with animal feces

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