Stores react to tomato scare |

Stores react to tomato scare

Salmonella outbreak linked to certain types of raw tomatoes

Kristi Mohrbacher

The FDA has issued a nationwide warning that certain types of tomatoes have been linked with a salmonella outbreak. These tomatoes at Sweet Pea Market were purchased from Honeyacre Produce in Wiggins and are "considered safe because they are still on the vine," said Honeyacre Produce Owner Cindy Shoemaker.

— A nationwide health warning has some local grocers and restaurants pulling tomatoes off shelves and menus.

The Food and Drug Administration has put in place a nationwide warning that consumption of certain raw red Roma, red plum and red round tomatoes and products containing those varieties of tomatoes has been linked to a salmonellosis outbreak caused by a rare strain of Salmonella Saintpaul. The recommendation does not apply to cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.

Sweet Pea Market owner Jonathon Hieb said his tomatoes are safe for consumption and will remain for sale at his market on Yampa Street.

“We only purchase tomatoes from Canada and locally from Honeyacre Produce in Wiggins, Colorado,” Hieb said. The FDA said Canada is unaffiliated with the salmonella outbreak.

Honeyacre Produce owner Cindy Shoemaker said all of her tomatoes come on the vine, and she added that Whole Foods deemed them safe and still is selling them.

Steamboat Springs’ Bamboo Market also will continue to sell tomatoes until its supplier, Albert’s Organics, tells them otherwise, store owner Anne Halloran said. She said she e-mailed the supplier and had not heard back Monday evening. She said if they tell her the tomatoes are unsafe, she will stop selling them.

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Steamboat’s largest grocery stores, Safeway and City Market, pulled all their tomatoes off shelves Saturday evening. Safeway also pulled products that contained tomatoes, such as salads and sandwiches.

“We also posted a recall notice to the public in the (produce) department,” City Market store manager Tom Wester said.

Employees at local branches of Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s and McDonald’s said they are not serving tomatoes until more information about the outbreak is available. Qdoba is serving tomatoes.

Freshies restaurant owner Kristy Fox decided not to serve whole tomatoes, but is serving grape tomatoes.

“Our purveyor, U.S. Foodservice, said our tomatoes are fine,” Fox said. However, concern about whole tomatoes led to the decision to take them off the menu.

Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant is not serving raw tomatoes but will continue to serve them cooked.

The FDA reported Saturday that there have been 145 confirmed cases of salmonellosis nationwide and at least 23 hospitalizations since mid-April. No deaths have been reported.

The source of the outbreak remains under investigation.

There is one confirmed case of salmonellosis in Colorado, said Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The illness was reported last week in Weld County.

“No known cases have been reported here,” said Christine McKelvie, public relations director for the Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The FDA said other states reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Tomatoes of any type grown or harvested from the following locations are not associated with the outbreak: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands and Puerto Rico.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The FDA recommends anyone who has eaten the raw tomatoes in question and is showing symptoms of salmonellosis contact their health care provider.

For folks wondering what they can do with the at-risk tomatoes they already have purchased, Devin Koontz, public affairs specialist for the FDA’s Denver District office, said, “They can either pitch them or puree and heat them up to 165 degrees to make a sauce. I recommend they pitch them though.”

– To reach Kristi Mohrbacher, call 870-1376 or e-mail