Local businesses respond to tomato scare

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008

National efforts are turning local as food suppliers race todestroy certain types of tomatoes associated with a nationwidesalmonella outbreak identified by the Food and DrugAdministration.

Reports indicate that 167 people in 17 states, includingMississippi, have been identified with the affliction – with onedeath in Texas – believed to be caused by red plum, red Roma orround red tomatoes. In response, several fast food restaurants andgrocery suppliers are going tomatoless.

“We wasted all our tomatoes,” said Brookhaven Burger KingAssistant Manager Claudia Henry. “We’re not selling tomatoes untilfurther notice.”

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Henry said her store destroyed five cases containing between 600and 700 tomatoes Sunday when the order was passed down, and another14 cases scheduled to be delivered to the store were withheld.

Henry said Burger King has been without tomatoes since Sunday,and would remain without them until the source of the nationwideoutbreak was identified and neutralized. She said the store’sketchup supply has not been affected.

Other local restaurants, like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, havealso been issued orders to destroy their tomatoes as aprecautionary measure, as the nationwide purge continues.

Grocery stores – including Wal-Mart, the nation’s largestgrocery supplier – are also trashing their tomatoes, but notuniversally. In a public notice recently issued by Wal-Mart, it wasstated certain types of the three tomato brands believed to havecaused the scare “have not been affected” by the advisory and “maystill be found on shelves at Wal-Mart Stores…”

The retail giant did say a full refund would be given tocustomers who purchased the tomatoes in question, including certainRomas, slicers and three- and four-pack varieties.

A list of tomatoes not affected by the salmonella outbreak canbe found atwww.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html#retailers.Regionally-grown tomatoes from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisianahave not been identified as carrying the bacteria.

Further information can be found at the Center for DiseaseControl’s Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/saintpaul/, andat the FDA’s Web site at http://www.foodsafety.gov/.