Monday, June 9, 2008

Food Retailers React To Tomato Alert

Several restaurant and food chains have reacted to FDA's nationwide Salmonella alert by pulling suspect tomatoes from their menus and produce departments.

McDonald's has taken the extraordinary step of temporarily eliminating sliced tomatoes from its sandwiches. The fast food chain is continuing to serve grape tomatoes – one of the varieties designated as "safe" by FDA – in its premium salads. Chipotle Mexican Grill, likewise, has stopped serving raw tomatoes for now.

Several food retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Winn Dixie and Grocers Supervalu have also removed the suspect varieties of tomatoes from sale.

At last count, 145 people in 16 US states have been infected with Salmonella Saintpaul in this outbreak, and the FDA and CDC are still unable to pinpoint the source of the contaminated tomatoes believed to be responsible for the illnesses.

Until the variety of tomato and its geographic origin are known, consumers should limit themselves to grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, vine-attached tomatoes or home-grown tomatoes, and should avoid eating dishes made from raw tomatoes (such as salsa) unless they are sure of the origin of the tomatoes.

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