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Local Tomatoes Get Blessing

July 4, 2008

By David Nivens, High Point Enterprise, N.C.

Jul. 4–TRIAD — Clyde Priddy, who gardens at his High Point residence, took a big bite out of a free tomato sandwich Thursday at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market.

A few minutes earlier, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler did the same thing.

“My tomatoes have not grown out yet,” Priddy said. “I think mine will taste better than this. I really love tomatoes.”

Priddy was one of scores of tomatoes fanciers who were served free sandwiches as Troxler recognized the opening of the state’s tomato season. The State Farmers Market in Raleigh held a similar event last Friday.

“My favorite is the German Johnson variety,” Troxler said.

State officials have been emphasizing for weeks that local tomatoes are safe, despite a salmonella outbreak which has sickened more than 800 people nationwide since mid April. Salmonella most often is transmitted to people who eat food contaminated with animal feces.

The FDA announced Tuesday it will test for a wider range of foods for the salmonella strain called Saintpaul. The agency still wants people to avoid raw, red-plum, red-Roma and red-round tomatoes that aren’t grown in a cleared state. The bulk of the nation’s tomatoes are grown in Florida, where harvest season is over. FDA cleared Florida tomatoes.

Local producers have reported good tomato sales at the state-supported Triad market. ‘

“We have been cleared from day one by FDA,” Troxler said. “FDA is still testing. There has been no positive test in tomatoes. It is suspected, but not proven. With the 900 million meals people eat every day, the chance someone may get salmonella is less than the chance of getting hit by lightening and is so low it is not there.”

Harris Teeter and Food Lion grocery stores have replaced suspected tomatoes with produce from safe zones. Restaurants have stopped using some tomato varieties.

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Copyright (c) 2008, High Point Enterprise, N.C.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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