JEFFERSON CITY - Rio Queen Citrus, a wholesale shipper in Texas confirmed cases of Salmonella in 243 boxes of grape tomatoes, the company has sent to St. Louis and Dallas this Tuesday. The company discovered the contamination when testing random samples from each lot of tomatoes after the products were shipped from Mexico, where the tomatoes were grown.
Salmonella can cause serious infections in people with wakened immune systems. People infected with Salmonella experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In some circumstances, infection might produce more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.
Rio Queen Citrus President Mike Martin said the company doesn't know the exact source of the contamination, but they have sent additional people to Mexico to help identify the source.
"We feel like something happened there in the harvesting and packing process, but we are not sure, so that's what we are trying to identify," Martin said.
The company has stopped sending other grape tomatoes out.
"No harvest is being done; no packing is being done, so there is no additional product coming into the market," Martin said.
Martin said he feels confident their costumers will identify the products and recall them back to destroy them.
According to the Front Row Produce's news release, the recalled grape tomatoes were distributed to food service distributors and retail stores in the areas in Missouri and Illinois. Starting on Dec.1, all shipments of 10-ounce plastic packages sold in retail stores will now have a green lot number sticker on the bottom side of each package with a seven-digit number, which will help identify specific shipments of product. Any packages that do not contain this green sticker should be considered under recall.
Martin said they have reported the issue to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are working together for further investigation. He also said officials of FDA may go to visit farmers in Mexico to help identify the source of the problem.
After the investigation is done and the procedure is reviewed, revised and potentially improved, Martin said the company will test the tomatoes again.
"Then we will proceed in a slow manner and so testing of product sampling to make sure we are not finding any kind of contamination," Martin said.
Although no illnesses have been reported, Martin said it is possible some people ate the contaminated tomatoes
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