McDonald's, Wal-Mart stop some tomato sales

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald’s Corp, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other restaurant and grocery chains have stopped selling certain tomatoes as U.S. health officials work to pinpoint the source of a Salmonella outbreak.

Tomatoes are seen in the central market of Guatemala City, Guatemala, July 18, 2007. McDonald's Corp <MCD.N> said on Monday it has temporarily stopped serving sliced tomatoes on its sandwiches in the United States as health officials work to pinpoint the source of a salmonella outbreak. REUTERS/Daniel LeClair

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday warned U.S. consumers that the outbreak was linked to eating certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these tomatoes.

The agency, which first warned consumers about the risk on June 3, has not yet identified the source of the contaminated tomatoes.

As of Saturday, FDA said there had been 145 reported cases, including at least 23 hospitalizations, related to the outbreak since mid-April. The infections were caused by Salmonella Saintpaul, an uncommon type of the bacteria.

Salmonella bacteria are frequently responsible for food-borne illnesses. Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 72 hours after eating infected food and include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness, which can be deadly unless treated with antibiotics.

The FDA has said that it is safe to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, or tomatoes grown at home.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, said on Monday it has temporarily stopped serving sliced tomatoes on its sandwiches in the United States.

“This is a precautionary measure only. McDonald’s has not experienced any related issues to date,” the company said in a statement.

McDonald’s said it will continue to serve grape tomatoes in our its premium salads.

According to a notice posted to Wal-Mart’s Web site on Thursday, the company removed products identified in the FDA alert.

Burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill said it has put a temporary stop to serving tomatoes.

“Like many other restaurants, we’ve pulled tomatoes as a precautionary measure and will not begin serving them again as long as their remains any concern about the tomato supply in this country,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said on Monday.

A spokesman for Pizza seller Papa John’s said the warning does not affect the chain because it does not serve uncooked tomatoes.

Grocers Supervalu and Winn Dixie Stores Inc also said they had stopped selling tomatoes that the FDA has warned should not be consumed.

A spokeswoman for Target Corp said the retailer has stopped selling the same tomatoes at its SuperTarget stores that offer groceries.

FDA has published a list of states whose tomatoes are not associated with the outbreak. It is availablehere.

Additional reporting by Nicole Maestri in New York; editing by John Wallace, Richard Chang