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CALS experts available to discuss tomatoes and salmonella outbreak

June 11, 2008

Media Contact: Matt Shipman, NC State News Services, (919) 515-3470

North Carolina State University experts can address concerns about the safety of eating tomatoes in the wake of Salmonella poisoning linked to contaminated tomatoes found in 17 states, as well as questions about what this may mean for tomato growers in North Carolina and beyond.

The outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning linked to uncooked tomatoes is raising questions across the country about the safety of tomato crops. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not associate tomatoes from North Carolina with the nationwide outbreak. For the most part, the tomato harvest in North Carolina has not yet started.

The FDA's preliminary data suggest that, in states with the outbreak, raw red plum, raw red Roma or raw round red tomatoes are affected by the Salmonella bacteria. Cherry and grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached have not been implicated. Salmonella are a strain of bacteria that can cause food-borne illness, including intestinal health problems.

Contamination of tomatoes and other fresh produce can occur at many points along the route from farm production to home consumption, including final preparation in the kitchen.

NC State experts who can address food safety and economic concerns related to the Salmonella outbreak include:

Dr. Trevor Phister, assistant professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science, 919/513-1644 or, can talk about microbial pathogens: what are the pathogens, what symptoms might be exhibited, how pathogens might enter fruit. Phister is a co-chair of the North Carolina Fresh Produce Safety Task Force.

Dr. Chris Gunter
, assistant professor, Department of Horticultural Science, 919/513-2807 or, specializes in the vegetable industry in North Carolina, working with commercial vegetable growers to maintain high quality through the use of integrated, economical and environmentally sound production practices. He is available to talk about tomato production issues. Gunter is a co-chair of the North Carolina Fresh Produce Safety Task Force.

Dr. Edmund A. Estes
, associate head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 919/515-2607 or, is an expert on the economics associated with the fruit and vegetable industry and can address the potential impact of the Salmonella outbreak.

Diane Ducharme, N.C. Cooperative Extension associate, horticulture and food safety, program for value-added and alternative agriculture, North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis, 704/250-5402 or, can discuss tomato production in North Carolina and steps that growers are using to prevent contamination. She also can discuss training for growers. Ducharme is a co-chair of the North Carolina Fresh Produce Safety Task Force.

Written by: Matt Shipman, NC State News Services, (919) 515-3470

Posted by Suzanne at June 11, 2008 02:02 PM