Tomatoes returning to Valdosta menus -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Tomatoes returning to Valdosta menus

June 17, 2008

Valdosta - Hundreds of people from 28 states, including Georgia, have been sickened from contaminated tomatoes.

The mysterious source hasn't been found, but experts confirm many tomatoes, including those grown in Georgia, are safe. Now many restaurants are putting tomatoes back on the menu and retailers say it's almost business as usual.

Many restaurants, like KFC, are re-stocking their shelves. 

"We are starting to order tomatoes as of this week. Hopefully we'll have them in at the end of this week, first of next week at the latest," says KFC owner Tim Harris.

The chain, like many others, stopped serving tomatoes after a salmonella outbreak sickened nearly 300 people across the country. It's believed to be linked to a batch of tainted tomatoes.

"The tomato business just stopped. We quit selling them completely. We pulled them from the tables because we weren't sure what we had," says Robert Martin, Wholesale Manager at Farmer Brown's.

"We destroyed all of them. We got rid of all the tomatoes and ceased ordering them any more," Harris adds. 

But our region's tomatoes were cleared and no source has yet been found. And the scare is finally starting to pass.

"Everybody seems to be a little more comfortable, especially knowing its from local farmers," Martin says.

Distributors say business is picking back up but it could be weeks if not months before it's business as usual.

"It could take several weeks or longer. I hope it comes back real soon because its hurt a lot of people, a lot of growers," says distributor Lee Williamson.

Now, growers and distributors alike hope tomatoes will make their return to menus everywhere sooner rather than later while the elusive source of the illness is found.

The best lead is a cluster of nine illnesses among diners. But the FDA won't identify the restaurant.

Investigators are tracing records of the restaurant's suppliers and cross-checking them to common suppliers for other parts of the country where people became ill.


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