N.M. Officials Ask Restaurants to Stop Serving Tomatoes

SANTA FE (AP) - New Mexico restaurants, hospitals, schools and grocery stores are being asked to stop selling and serving certain raw tomatoes and products made with the raw produce due to a recent wave of salmonella cases.

The department points specifically to raw red plum, Roma and round red tomatoes as well as fresh salsa made with tomatoes.

"The department's food program bureau is contacting distributors of tomatoes to ensure they notify food establishments to stop serving tomatoes suspected in making people sick," Environment Secretary Ron Curry said Thursday in a statement.

State and federal health officials are investigating the specific type and source of tomatoes causing the outbreak. However, the Environment Department said preliminary data suggests raw red plum, Roma and round tomatoes are the cause.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people eat tomatoes that have not been implicated in the outbreak. Those include cherry and grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes.

Four dozen New Mexicans have become ill with a strain of salmonella linked to tomatoes. Cases have been reported in nearly a third of the state's 33 counties. Several people were hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after being infected. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment, the state Health Department said.

However, the elderly, the very young and people with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill, which may require hospitalization due to diarrhea.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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