Local News

N.C. tomatoes safe, officials say

Posted June 9, 2008 10:26 p.m. EDT
Updated June 9, 2008 11:42 p.m. EDT

— The federal Food and Drug Administration is warning of a widespread salmonella outbreak involving certain types of tomatoes, but consumers buying North Carolina’s harvest of tomatoes are safe.

The state’s tomato harvest is now finding its way to market, which qualifies it for the FDA’s Safe List.

“It’s another example of the benefits here in North Carolina, of looking for North Carolina produce, buying North Carolina produce, going to your local farmer’s market,” said Brian Long, public affairs director of the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs.

Amid the salmonella scare, tomatoes are being pulled from store shelves across the country. McDonald’s restaurants announced they will no longer serve tomatoes until the source is found.

The FDA said the source is either red plum, red round or Roma tomatoes. Long said people purchasing those types of tomatoes should find out where they came from. There are 27 other states and foreign countries on the government’s safe list.

Cherry and grape tomatoes and ones with the vine still attached are not affected by the outbreak. If you're unsure where the tomatoes have come from, experts say to cook them.

Bear Rock Café owners have been monitoring the government’s advisories. The chain is still serving tomatoes that come from North Carolina.

“We’re fortunate we have not been affected. Unfortunately, in the industry, how many people have been affected by it? But we are very fortunate in North Carolina,” said Bill Baker, regional manager for Bear Rock Café.

North Carolina could benefit from the nationwide scare, especially with some of the larger farms shipping tomatoes to other states.

“The more demand we have for North Carolina produce, the better off our economy will be, the better off our consumers will be, and the better off our farmers will be,” Long said.

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. It usually is transmitted to humans by eating food contaminated with animal feces.

Most infected people suffer fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps starting 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness tends to last four to seven days. Many people recover without treatment, but severe infection and death are possible.