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Restaurants, stores pull tomatoes after salmonella scare

Chances aren't very good, if you happen to have the urge for tomatoes on a hamburger or sandwich or diced in a salad at area restaurants and other eateries in McDuffie and surrounding areas. The reason: a national tomato poisoning scare, which has resulted in more than 160 people getting sick and having to be hospitalized since April.

Those who have become ill from eating contaminated tomatoes have come down with salmonella. As of Tuesday, seven people had been reported as coming down with such symptoms in Georgia.

Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that there had been no deaths associated to the outbreak, which involved at least 17 states.

Although Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says there is no problem with tomatoes grown in the Peach State, many restaurants and other eateries in the state, including some grocery stores, are taking no chances.

In McDuffie County, signs have been posted in various places to advise customers that they still are not serving tomatoes. It was not immediately known when tomatoes might be offered to customers at those businesses.

"Georgia grown tomatoes remain on the safe list of tomatoes compiled by the FDA," according to Mr. Irvin. "News of the seven people in Georgia who got sick from eating contaminated tomatoes should not confuse anyone about the safety of the tomatoes grown here. No tomatoes grown in Georgia have been linked to the outbreak of salmonella-related illnesses."

Mr. Irvin says consumers in the state should first check with management of grocery stores and restaurants to learn where they received their tomatoes.

"I encourage everyone to buy their tomatoes from Georgia growers," Mr. Irvin said.

George and Sara Wansley of Thomson operate a produce stand at an outlet market, off Harrison Road.

The couple buys the tomatoes they sell to customers from Florida every week.

"Sales have been a little slow, but I think that has been due mainly to the overall problems with the economy, as opposed to the tomato scare," Mr. Wansley said. "I think things will get back to normal soon as far as the sales go with tomatoes."

Web posted on Thursday, June 19, 2008

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