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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Arkansas tomatoes are safe

Thursday, June 19, 2008

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Although Arkansas has had two cases of salmonella linked to contaminated tomatoes, local grocery stores have made sure that the tomatoes they stock are safe for consumption.

"We haven't really been affected," said Dan Seward, manager of Price Chopper in Hardy.

The store stocks a variety of tomatoes grown in an assortment of states; however, all of the tomatoes in the store have been designated as safe, he said.

"We're only getting them from good places," Seward said, adding that most tomatoes the store stocks now are products of Arkansas which are deemed safe.

The store receives its tomato shipment from Associated Wholesale Grocers in Springfield, Mo. The warehouse has checked and double-checked where they received the product from and who received what shipment.

When the outbreak occurred, the warehouse e-mailed the store and notified them that their supply of tomatoes were harmless.

"They stay on top of it pretty well for us," Seward said.

Town and Country Supermarket in Highland is also unaffected by the outbreak, said manager Allen Utue.

All of the tomatoes in the store currently are products of Arkansas, he said. Prior to that, all of the tomatoes the store had on its shelves were from states listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's safe list, he said.

The outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul has been linked to raw red plum tomatoes, red Roma tomatoes and red round tomatoes, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. The contaminated tomatoes have infected 228 people nationwide since April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consumers should dispose of any tomatoes they have if the source of the tomatoes cannot be determined, the FDA said.

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by contact with infected people or animals, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of some animals, and can live in soil and water for months. Once Salmonella has contaminated something, it can be spread from surface to surface, the FDA said.

Symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure and may include diarrhea, cramping, fever, nausea, vomiting and headache. The infections can be quite serious particularly in the young and the elderly, according to the CDC.

When Subway of Ash Flat owner Sherry McEntire heard of the outbreak June 8, she said she was concerned.

"I feared someone would get sick," she said. "I wanted to get rid of my tomatoes."

The shop pulled its supply of tomatoes from its sandwich assembly line and stopped serving the red round tomatoes until Subway headquarters assured her that her supply was harmless, McEntire said. Headquarters verified they came from safe places three days later and the sliced tomatoes were placed back on the line, she said.

Experts have told consumers to limit their tomato purchases to cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, tomatoes grown at home or from states not associated with the outbreak.

During the FDA's investigation, they have determined tomatoes from the following areas are safe:

Alabama

Alaska

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Delaware

Florida (counties of: Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Charlotte)

Georgia

Hawaii

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

Nebraska

North Carolina

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Belgium

Canada

Dominican Republic

Guatemala

Israel

Netherlands

Puerto Rico

Because Arkansas is on the safe list, the profit farmers are getting for their tomatoes has increased. In fact, a 20-pound box is selling for $20, $5 to $8 more than usual, according to John Gavin, Bradley County Extension chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Bradley County is the primary tomato producing county in the state with approximately 600 total acres of tomatoes with an annual value of $6-$8 million.

Dr. Craig Andersen, Extension horticulturist said most food-borne problems occur in post harvest handling.

The CDC offers a bit of advise to consumers:

* Refrigerate within two hours or discard cut, peeled or cooked tomatoes.

* Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.

* Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.

* Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood and raw produce items.

* Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.



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