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CPMA reassures Canadian tomato consumers


June 12, 2008
By By Pat Hewitt of The Canadian Press

June 11, 2008, Toronto — The
Canadian Produce Marketing Association is trying to reassure Canadians
tomatoes being sold in this country are safe, as businesses and
consumers shy away from the summer staple because of the tainted tomato
scare in the U.S.

June 11, 2008, Toronto — The Canadian Produce Marketing Association is trying to reassure Canadians tomatoes being sold in this country are safe, as businesses and consumers shy away from the summer staple because of the tainted tomato scare in the U.S.
The association says it is clear the food-borne outbreak is isolated to the United States, as public health authorities in Canada have not reported illnesses nor issued recalls of red plum, red Roma or round tomatoes suspected of making people sick.
It says retailers and food service operators are making corporate decisions on whether to sell fresh tomatoes based on economics – whether consumers will be too afraid to buy tomatoes at all.
“Much of the lost consumer confidence in tomatoes has been generated by exposure to U.S. media coverage resulting in questions relative to the Canadian food supply,” spokesman David Lauer said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press on Wednesday (June 11).
“Consumers should be confident that tomatoes for sale in Canada, both domestic and imported, are both safe and nutritious.”
The Tomato Products Wellness Council said in a statement that tomato sauces, soups, paste, ketchup and juice all remain a safe choice for consumers because the heat is high enough in processing tomato products to kill salmonella.
Major fast-food chains such as Tim Hortons, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Boston Pizza, McDonald’s and Burger King, along with some grocery stores in Canada and the U.S., have removed selected varieties of fresh tomatoes from sale as a precaution following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warning last weekend.
Less than 24 hours after pulling foreign-grown tomatoes off store shelves as a precautionary measure, a grocery store chain in Newfoundland and Labrador began restocking Florida tomatoes Wednesday.
Colemans Food Centre, which has about a dozen stores across the province, said now that tomatoes from parts of Florida have been cleared by the FDA of causing the salmonella saintpaul outbreak, the chain was putting them back on the shelves.
“What we did (Tuesday) because we didn’t know what the outcome of the FDA (investigation) was going to be, was we removed any foreign tomatoes and just went with the Canadian grown,” said Colemans spokeswoman Judy Bennett in an interview on Wednesday. “Anything that has been cleared and is not suspect is back on the shelves. That would be all of the varieties out of Florida.”
The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors said Wednesday “it’s business as usual” for its members, who include Safeway, Loblaw and Sobeys.
Council spokeswoman Jackie Crichton said her group’s members are following the advice of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which has not issued a recall and has said it’s watching the U.S. investigation closely.
The FDA said it’s getting close to identifying the source of the contamination that has sickened 167 people in 17 states since April, and is believed to have caused one death.
But the agency, which has so far determined tomatoes from more than 30 states or countries are safe, has come under fire from American farmers, who say it has been too slow to find the source of contamination.
And that, they say, is hurting their business.
Meanwhile the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning the outbreak isn’t considered over yet, because state and local health departments still are investigating possibly more recent infections.

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