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Grocers pull tomatoes after FDA links some to salmonella outbreak

Grand Forks grocers and restaurants followed a national directive Monday and pulled tomatoes that could be linked to a salmonella outbreak from their shelves and tables.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration named three types of tomatoes -- raw red plum, red Roma and round red -- as the likely culprits of the outbreak. Since mid-April, 145 salmonella infections have been reported and at least 23 people in 16 states have been hospitalized, according to the FDA. No deaths have been reported.

North Dakota and Minnesota are on the list of states that imported suspect tomatoes, but no related illnesses have been reported.

The FDA says cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached or tomatoes grown at home are safe to eat. Ketchup and cooked sauces are not affected.

Hugo's stores in Grand Forks voluntarily pulled Roma tomatoes from shelves and bins Monday afternoon as a precaution. Most of the city's restaurants -- including Burger King, Subway, Applebee's, Perkins, Green Mill and McDonalds -- said they were not using tomatoes or were throwing them out. Wal-Mart also has removed tomatoes from their products.

Canadian fast-food restaurants also are pulling sliced tomatoes from their menu items, though no illnesses have been reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Minnesota is expected to be cleared by the FDA sometime today, said John Skarie, production manager of Lakeview Greenhouses in Detroit Lakes. Skarie said Minnesota was excluded from the first set of states to be cleared as an oversight by the FDA.

"We don't grow tomatoes outdoors," he said. "All the tomatoes with problems with salmonella were grown outside in fields."

States reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

So far, the only states that have not been associated with this outbreak are Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

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