ONEONTA _ A variety of safe tomatoes remain available locally.
Tony Annutto sells hydroponic tomatoes from Canada at his farm stand in Oneonta, while local restaurant owner Martin Patten said the supply of any questionable tomatoes stops at the distribution level, before reaching local kitchens.
Meanwhile, Price Chopper grocery stores removed the types of tomatoes red-flagged Monday, a supermarket official said Tuesday, and shipped in approved products.
Federal officials are seeking the source of a 17-state salmonella outbreak linked to three types of raw tomatoes, The Associated Press reported. McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Burger King and Taco Bell were among companies that voluntarily withdrew red plum, red Roma or round red tomatoes unless they were grown in certain states and countries, while the Quiznos in Oneonta had signs posted Monday saying that tomatoes had been temporarily pulled.
Dianne Palmatier, manager of the McDonald's in Sidney, said the restaurant stopped putting tomatoes on sandwiches and posted a sign to let customers know the change. Palmatier said she didn't know how long the change would last.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that since mid-April, 167 people infected with salmonella with the same "genetic fingerprint" have been identified. At least 23 people have been hospitalized, and the death of a 67-year-old cancer patient in Texas sickened by salmonella at a restaurant is believed to be the first associated with the outbreak.
Salmonella is bacteria in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. The bacteria usually are transmitted to humans through eating foods 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.
Mona Golub, vice president for public relations at Price Chopper, said the designated types of tomatoes were withdrawn Monday and tomatoes from areas approved by the FDA were being shipped to stores Tuesday night.
``It's not as if there's not a tomato to be had,'' Golub said.
Price Chopper has stores in Oneonta, Richfield Springs and Delhi, and she said the corporation is putting information on its website to inform customers about changes.
Officials from Hannaford Food and Drug Superstore, which has a store in Oneonta, didn't return messages left at corporate offices Tuesday.
At Annutto's Farm Stand, Annutto said the types of tomatoes red-flagged are picked green, washed and distributed and are ``hard'' tomatoes that can be sliced.
``I don't sell those types of tomatoes,'' he said. ``I sell vine-ripes.''
Annutto said he called his distributor in Binghamton to check the quality of his supply after Debbie, his daughter and business co-owner, told him she'd heard a news report.
Diane Cusworth, public health director in Otsego County, said the salmonella outbreak hasn't had an impact on the area and may not. But washing fruits and vegetables is a good precaution, she said.
``Everything that you purchase needs to be thoroughly washed _ even if it says `pre-washed,''' Cusworth said. ``It's better to be safe than sorry.''
Martin Patten, owner of three restaurants in Oneonta, said his distributor monitors warnings about products and reacts before items are delivered. Patten said he requests local produce when available for use at the businesses he and his wife own _ Christopher's Restaurant, Sabatini's and the All-Star Tavern, which is part of the baseball camp opening this weekend.
New York-grown tomatoes are safe to eat, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said Tuesday, and the FDA expanded its list of production areas not associated with the outbreak to include New York.
New York state ranks 13th in the nation for tomato production, but its season doesn't start until later this month, Hooker said in a media release.
The salmonella causing the outbreak is a very unusual type called salmonella saintpaul, said FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, who added it was not more virulent than other types of salmonella.
McDonald's, the world's largest hamburger chain, stopped serving sliced tomatoes on its sandwiches as a precaution but will continue serving grape tomatoes in its salads because no problems have been linked to that variety.
Burger King Corp. said it had withdrawn raw round red tomatoes from most of its U.S. restaurants. Other restaurant operators that stopped serving most tomatoes: Yum Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Long John Silver's; and Darden Restaurants, which owns and operates six brands including Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
Among retailers, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "" the largest grocery seller in the U.S. "" is working with federal officials to ensure affected tomatoes are pulled, officials said.
Tomatoes that are safe to eat include those grown in New York state, officials said Tuesday.
Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes are likely not the source of the salmonella outbreak, federal officials said.
Also not associated with the outbreak are raw red Roma, red plum and round red tomatoes from Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands and Puerto Rico.
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