Grocery stores and restaurants across our region rushed to get rid of tomatoes that could be contaminated with salmonella. Food distributors in the area are also taking extra steps to make sure potential contaminated tomatoes don't reach their customers.
"We've contacted them (the customers), and we've returned a lot of those cases of tomatoes to those suppliers; some suppliers have just asked us to destroy the product so we've done that also," President and CEO Robert Donaldson of Lee Food Service, Incorporated said.
The Food and Drug Administration announced there are three types of larger tomatoes that could contain salmonella: red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes. The smaller varieties - cherry, grape and vine tomatoes are alright, but local restaurants are taking the extra step and removing all tomatoes from the menu.
"It does scare you because you don't want anyone to be sick,”
Fast food restaurants are not selling tomato slices on their sandwiches until the source of the salmonella is found. Grape tomatoes are still in those fast food salads.
While some restaurants have taken tomatoes completely off their menus, others are still offering tomatoes to customers that want them after taking extra safety precautions.
“Anybody who wants tomato on their sandwich it is put on last so it doesn't contaminate anybody else's food,"
Health experts said although washing raw tomatoes with a sanitary solution can remove some bacteria, there is no way to completely rid the raw tomatoes of salmonella. If you're not sure if the tomatoes you have at home are contaminated, health experts advise that it's better to be safe than sorry.
"I would say if food safety is a concern or if you're in doubt throw it out; it is best to get rid of the product," Penn State Extension Nutrition, Food and Health Educator Sharon McDonald said.
Health professionals also said to make sure and sanitize all of your utensils and working areas to avoid other food from being contaminated.