Duluth groceries, restaurants pull tomatoes

Duluth restaurants and grocery stores joined communities across the country late last week in removing three kinds of tomatoes tied to a salmonella outbreak.

Duluth restaurants and grocery stores joined communities across the country late last week in removing three kinds of tomatoes tied to a salmonella outbreak.

The move came in response to an alert by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, advising that consumers quit eating -- and grocery stores and restaurants quit selling -- Red Roma, Red Plum, and Round red tomatoes, and products made from these types of tomatoes.

Locally, most grocery stores -- including Cub Foods, Super One Foods and Mount Royal Fine Foods -- have quit selling these types of tomatoes. And local restaurants - including the Olive Garden, McDonald's, Burger King, Applebee's, Subway and Grandma's -- have temporarily adjusted their menus to get by without tomatoes.

"We're pulling them as a precaution," said Dan Hubbard, produce manager at the Super One Foods on Burning Tree Road.

The recommendation was prompted after 145 reported cases across the country of Salmonella Saintpaul, an uncommon form of salmonella, according to the FDA. The cases have popped up in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.


No one has died from the recent outbreak, though at least 23 people have been hospitalized.

Only three people were known to be infected with this particular type of salmonella in 2007, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Salmonella is characterized by diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that occur within 12 to 72 hours of infection. The illness lasts four to seven days and is usually diagnosed by culturing a stool sample.

While most people do not need treatment, the disease can be dangerous to infants, elderly people and those with weak immune systems. Officials recommend consulting a health care provider if diarrhea lasts longer than two days in an adult, one day in a child younger than 4, or eight hours in an infant.

"Minnesota does not have any cases of illness and does not look like one of the states involved," said Doug Schultz, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health.

For now, the FDA recommends only eating raw tomatoes if they're cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with their vine attached or homegrown tomatoes.

"We are pulling tomatoes off this week," said Brian Daugherty, president of Grandma's Restaurant Co.

Because the restaurants purchase some raw tomatoes locally, they should be able to continue the same selections, Daugherty said. "The only thing that should disappear for a bit is salsa from Little Angie's," he said.


Kevin Kane, a Subway spokesperson, said by Saturday, all 22,500 Subway restaurants had nixed tomatoes from all of its sandwiches.

"We're finding people turning into cucumber and pepper fans," Kane said.

Restaurateurs and grocery store managers didn't anticipate the temporary tomato-free stores would spell a significant blow to bottom lines.

Kane said his company hopes to be able to tell its restaurants to begin offering tomatoes as an option again in some states as early as today. He wasn't sure if Minnesota would be among them.

PATRICK GARMOE can be reached at (218) 723-5229 or

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