Panola Tomatoes

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008

Panola’s tomatoes safe, say grocers

By Rita Howell

Local tomato lovers need not deny themselves BLT sandwiches in the wake of this week’s nationwide salmonella scare. Local grocers acted quickly to ensure their tomatoes were not among those on the Food and Drug Administration’s recall list.

“This came at a good time for us,” Piggly Wiggly owner Mike Reed said Wednesday. “Last week we started getting in our locally grown tomatoes. All ours are from Arkansas.”

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The FDA has released a list of states with tomato crops deemed safe.  Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida are all on the “safe” list.

Salmonella contamination in fresh tomatoes is suspected in the illnesses of 228 people in 23 states, most of them in the western portion of the country.

“We got the notice to pull the recalled tomatoes on Sunday,” Kroger customer service associate Lounette Freeman said this week. The store, it turned out, did not have any of the recalled varieties. On Wednesday the Kroger store had Mexican cherry tomatoes, which have not been recalled, and tomatoes on the vine which carried “grown in the U.S.” labels.

At the Batesville Sav-a-Lot store, some Roma tomatoes were thrown out after the recall was issued, according to store spokesman Mary Cranford. All tomatoes currently in their bins are from Florida, and are shipped from the company’s central warehouse in Humboldt, Tenn, she said.

At Batesville Feed and Supply, an official-looking letter hangs above the tomato bin. The tomatoes the store purchased through Vine Ripe Specialties came from Georgia. The letter states that the FDA has approved them as safe.

Anyone who wanted to make doubly sure could buy a tomato plant from store owner Robert Brown and grow their own.