Salmonella Leads Restaurants to Hold the Tomatoes
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And the U.S. tomato supply is under scrutiny because of a salmonella outbreak. McDonald's and Wal-Mart - among other chains - have stopped selling certain tomatoes while health officials try to pinpoint the source of the outbreak. It's sickened at least 145 people in more than a dozen states.
NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Federal investigators don't know where the salmonella came from, but interviews with those who got sick suggest raw tomatoes were the source. Until investigators can pinpoint the problem, several restaurant chains, including McDonald's and Chipotle Mexican Grill, have stopped using fresh tomatoes altogether as a precaution. Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie have also pulled some types of tomatoes from their produce aisles.
That's cast a dark cloud over tomato fields in Florida, where half the nation's fresh tomatoes are grown. President Michael Stuart of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association says if the investigation drags on, farmers could be left with unsold tomatoes rotting on the vine.
Mr. MICHAEL STUART (President, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association): They're extremely frustrated in that business has basically ground to a halt at this point in time. We're anxiously awaiting a determination by the Food and Drug Administration as to what the specific source of this problem is. And until that happens, quite frankly, we're dead in the water.
HORSLEY: That's bad news for the 33,000 workers who help to harvest the Florida crop. The FDA has cleared tomatoes from California and seven other states, but only because those tomatoes hadn't ripened yet when the outbreak began in mid-April. Since then, at least 23 salmonella victims have been hospitalized.
Scott Horsley, NPR News.