Local retailers pull tomatoes

June 10, 2008 3:30:05 PM PDT
So far, at least 167 people in 17 states have gotten salmonella poisoning from contaminated tomatoes. At least 23 people have been hospitalized. No one has gotten sick in Pennsylvania or New Jersey but retailers here aren't taking any chances.

Most grocery stores and food chains across the Delaware and Lehigh Valley have pulled recalled tomatoes from their shelves. You also won't find sliced tomatoes on your BigMac or chopped tomato at places like Saladworks.

The FDA is warning some tomatoes have been linked to a rare type of salmonella called the saintpaul strain.

Acme's food safety director Chuck Martin said the recall affects raw red roma, red plum and red round tomatoes. They've pulled all those. "It can make people very sick. People with weakened immune systems or kids or pregnant women and the elderly are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses, including salmonella," Martin said.

But there are safe substitutes. The FDA says cherry and grape tomatoes are okay and so are tomatoes grown on the vine or at home.

The FDA is trying to find out how the plants got contaminated and whether it happened in the field or during packaging.

The FDA has cleared tomatoes grown in Pennsylvania. New Jersey-grown tomatoes are also expected to get a clean bill of health.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning usually appear about 12 to 72 hours after exposure. For healthy people, the illness usually resolves on its own but for kids and the elderly, dehydration and other complications are possible. Symptoms to look for include: fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.