Local 'maters are mighty good - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Local 'maters are mighty good

June 11, 2008

Recent health concerns about tomatoes have some people shying away from making that B-L-T for lunch or dinner.

Lots of restaurants and grocery stores stopped selling and serving certain types of tomatoes because of a salmonella outbreak.

But tomato growers in our area want you to know that their product is safe.

Tomatoes are a staple of the American diet. They're used to make all sorts of food products that we eat all day, every day; from tomato juice with our breakfast to spaghetti sauce at dinner. And they're in season here in Georgia. But after more than 160 cases of Salmonella poisoning were reported in 16 states, some stores pulled them off of the shelves. So where are the tomatoes that are sold here grown?

"Well, we get ours local.  All ours comes from Georgia.  And as you can see they're in good shape and we haven't had any problem with our tomatoes so far." said Taskel Spradlin, Produce Manager of Mike's Country Store in Lee County.

Georgia tomatoes were recently found to be safe by the FDA along with the tomatoes in bordering states such as Florida. Still, consumers are at least concerned with the possibility of disease.

Said Spradlin, "I mean they are concerned where they come from, and I tell them that they come straight from Georgia."

So how can you make sure that the tomatoes that you pick are the best possible...and disease free?  You could pick them yourself at a place like 'Maters, Melons and More just north of Doerun.  That's what Jessie Lee Carter of Albany does.  What does he do with the tomatoes that he picks?

Said Carter, "Well, we freeze them, put them in the freezer. And as we put them in the freezer, they'll last for a while."

Jon Trev Simmons, owner and operator of 'Maters, Melons and More near Doerun told us how they make sure that E-Coli and Salmonella never affected their crop.   "The USDA approves and recommends sprays and programs and that's what we follow and we keep it down to a minimum, but we don't keep it extinct." said Simmons

But Simmons also told us that all tomatoes do have some bacteria in them. So to make sure that there are no problems, look for grooves in the top or dark spots towards the bottom of the tomato.  But whether you pick them yourself or just pick them up at the local grocery or stand, with some careful picking you can feel confident that your salad will be both tasty and safe.

According to the U-S-D-A, tomatoes are the fourth most popular vegetable in the American diet behind potatoes, lettuce and onions.

Georgia has the fourth most acreage devoted to tomatoes behind California, Florida and Ohio.

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