Tomato Salmonella Update and How It Affects Our Area

By: Blaine Tolison, Caroline Blair
By: Blaine Tolison, Caroline Blair

UPDATE FROM Blaine Tolison 10:45pm

With a rising number of illnesses, the Food and Drug Administration says this is becoming one of the largest tomato salmonella outbreaks ever. The FDA says this is a rare form of salmonella that they are trying to put a stop to.

Whether you call it a fruit or a vegetable, if it's on the shelf at the store-many people aren't buying it. "We've pretty much stayed away from the tomatoes." said Kelvin Ellis, a Tallahassee resident.

But for others, they could care less about potentially bad tomatoes at the market. Take them at your own risk or leave them, the Food and Drug Administration says it is investigating Florida and Mexico as the possible source of the tainted tomatoes. Investigators did not say farms are necessarily responsible, they will be looking into how tomatoes were distributed from Florida and Mexico as well. The Florida Department of Agriculture says Florida's farms would be an unlikely culprit.

"They're not saying it did or it didn't. What they're saying is, it could of happened anywhere along the distribution point" said Liz Compton with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

While the Food and Drug Administration finds the true source of the salmonella, people can take farming tomatoes into their own hands. "We have our own tomato bushes in the back and we've been eating tomato sandwiches for about two weeks now." said Eve Haney, another Tallahassee Resident.

To be clear on the tomato situation, the FDA says Georgia is not associated with harvesting tomatoes associated with the outbreak and neither are some parts of Florida. You can find a link to the FDA web site below to see exactly which areas have been cleared. In the meantime, the FDA does not ask that you stop eating tomatoes, just find out where your tomatoes are coming from.

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UPDATE FROM Eyewitness News Reporter Blaine Tolison 6:00pm

The FDA says this tomato salmonella outbreak could be the largest ever.
Although Florida and Mexico have been singled out as the source,
authorities say the contamination could have occurred anywhere in the distribution process.

The FDA will be investigating the path the tomatoes traveled- but they will not say exactly where.

The Florida Department of Agriculture says it is unlikely the tomatoes were grown in Florida.

Liz Compton from the Florida Department of Agriculture says,
"We had one illness and the gentleman ate the tomatoes in New York. It just doesn't seem reasonable that it would be Florida grown tomatoes when there have been no illnesses in Florida and the growers sell so many tomatoes right here in Florida."

There is a list of counties in Florida that have been cleared as the source by the FDA. The website can be found at the bottom of the page under "Related Links"

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UPDATE FROM Eyewitness News Reporter Caroline Blair 6:15pm

As of Friday afternoon, the U-S Food and Drug Administration is reporting 552 cases of salmonella poisoning across the country.

And with at least two more cases confirmed in the Peach State, that brings the running Georgia total to at least ten.

"I'm not buying tomatoes because of the salmonella and I think it wouldn't be a good idea. I will eventually buy them after this is over but not right now," said Barbara Dubose of Ochlocknee.

Many local businesses are choosing to do the same, keeping tomatoes off their menu.

But the outbreak's not stopping everyone from buying.

"We've had tons of questions about the tomatoes you know where do you get our tomatoes are they Mexican tomatoes like from the Western Part of the United States," said Cindy Lewis, owner of Lewis Produce in Thomasville.

But because the tomatoes sold at Lewis Produce are locally grown, owners say that seems to keep many residents happy.

"I'm not afraid I've been eating them all week and I came back and got some more," said Betty Shackleford, who buys from Lewis Produce.

"We buy our tomatoes locally and we do give our customers a choice but we do feel they are safe to eat here locally," said Diane Gammons, owner of Hawaii Snow restaurant.

Health officials say if you choose to consume tomatoes, just make sure you know where they're from and take extra precautionary measures when cleaning them.

"If you cut them make sure you keep them refrigerated. Make sure you clean surfaces say between raw meats and tomatoes," said Melissa Durkin, Environmental Specialist for the Thomas County Health Department.

But if you begin to feel sick, officials say you may want to see your doctor for treatment.

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UPDATE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) Food and Drug Administration inspectors are
heading for farms in Florida and Mexico, as new clues emerge to the
possible source of salmonella-tainted tomatoes that have now
sickened 552 people.

The FDA wouldn't say where in Florida and Mexico the hunt is
centering. But officials stressed the clues don't mean that a
particular farm will turn out to be the culprit.

Investigators will pay special attention to big packing houses
or distribution warehouses that enough tomatoes from those farms
may have traveled through to account for what appears to be the
nation's largest-ever salmonella outbreak from tomatoes.

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UPDATE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA (AP) State health official are reporting that two more
Georgia residents have been sickened by the salmonella outbreak
that the Food and Drug Administration has linked to tainted
tomatoes.

Health officials said there have now been 10 confirmed cases of
the Salmonella Saintpaul infection. Nine were from the Atlanta
area, and two were hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.

The federal government says the outbreak has sickened 383 people
in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

The FDA has warned consumers against eating certain raw red
plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes. Grape and cherry tomatoes or
tomatoes still attached to the vine aren't linked to the illnesses.


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