Jun 11, 2008
Most Florida Tomatoes Cleared

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reached an agreement that will allow most Florida tomatoes to move back into commerce, according to the Produce Marketing Association.

Tomato shipments from 19 counties – basically the Quincy, Ruskin, and Palmetto regions – that have a certificate from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services attesting to origin and harvest dates after May 1 are on the FDA’s cleared list.

The certificate is needed to assure that the tomatoes are from the approved areas and were harvested after May 1. The counties are: Jackson, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Suwannee, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, Desoto, Sarasota, Highlands, Pasco, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando and Charlotte.

Not only will new shipments from those counties have certificates, product already in the market pipeline that qualifies for a certificate can get one. Officials said that buyers or repackers that have product from those areas harvested after May 1 should contact their suppliers to get a certificate so that eligible tomatoes already in warehouses can be marketed.

FDA has also updated the states on the cleared list. It now includes: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, parts of Florida (see above), Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The following countries have also been cleared: Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico.

The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still characterize the outbreak as ongoing, and have issued information on the outbreak. To see the CDC information, visit the CDC Web site. To see the FDA information, visit the FDA Web site.

CDC states: Only three persons infected with this strain of Salmonella saintpaul were identified in the United States during the same period in 2007. The previous rarity of this strain and the distribution of illnesses in all U.S. regions suggest that the implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout much of the country. Because of inherent delays in reporting and because many persons with Salmonella illness do not have a stool specimen tested, it is likely many more illnesses have occurred than those reported.

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