McDonald's, Wal-Mart and several other U.S. chains have stopped selling raw tomatoes.
Federal health officials are trying to trace the source of a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes that have sickened people in at least 16 states.
No illnesses have been reported in N.C. The 16 states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
A salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes serves as a reminder to take extra care with summer fruits and vegetables. While there is no way for consumers to detect salmonella (you can't smell, taste or see it), there are some things you can do reduce the risk from raw vegetables. Cooking tomatoes at 145 degrees will kill salmonella.
Here are other tips from food safety experts:
Check your tomatoes
The Food and Drug Administration is advising people even in unaffected states to eat only tomatoes not associated with the outbreak: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and tomatoes grown at home. For other tomatoes, cut away the part that is attached to the plant and the button on the other side. That part can carry a food-borne illness because it's a hard area and organisms can attach themselves to it.
Wash produce, whether organic or not, with cold running water. Scrub them gently with your hands or with a vegetable brush. Remove outer layers of cabbage and lettuce.
Wash hands, surfaces
Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly before handling food. Wash your hands if you come in contact with pet feces, use the bathroom or change a baby's diaper. Also wash cutting boards, counters and utensils to avoid cross-contamination. Avoid any kind of contact with raw meat when preparing fresh vegetables. Refrigerate sliced-up fruits and vegetables.
Inquire at restaurants
Ketchup and cooked sauces are not affected by the outbreak. And several restaurants are not serving tomatoes -- on Monday, McDonald's and other chains said they had stopped serving sliced tomatoes in their U.S. restaurants.
Report the illness
Salmonella poisoning generally occurs hours after ingestion and involves symptoms such as abdominal cramps, headache, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The CDC says symptoms generally appear 12 to 72 hours after infection. People should report a suspected food-borne illness to the local health department.
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