(July 11, 5:25 p.m.) The Food and Drug Administration’s consumer advisory in an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul has had dire consequences for the tomato category.

The Perishables Group reported July 11 that movement of field-grown roma and red, round tomatoes — varieties implicated by FDA in the outbreak — dropped nearly 50% in June.

For the four-week period ending June 28, data collected nationwide from 15,000 traditional supermarkets showed volume of field-grown roma and red, round tomatoes decreased 46.1%, while dollar sales dropped 36.2%. Greenhouse roma and red, round tomatoes declined only slightly in comparison.

Volume in the overall tomato category decreased 17% compared to the year-ago period, while dollar sales fell 5.4% to $136.3 million.

Non-implicated varieties — including grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes on the vine — actually increased 3.4% in volume and 8% in dollar sales.

Data reported does not include Wal-Mart, club stores, alternative-format stores such as Whole Foods or small, independent retailers.

On June 2, FDA advised consumers in New Mexico and Texas not to eat roma or red, round tomatoes. The agency expanded its advisory nationwide June 7, warning consumers not to eat roma or red, round tomatoes unless they are sourced from approved areas. Numerous retailers and restaurants responded by pulling the implicated varieties.

By June 13, many retailers and restaurants were restocking tomatoes from approved areas, but damage to consumer confidence and demand had been done.

A consumer poll conducted from June 13-19 by the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association indicated that 8% of shoppers surveyed said they would never buy tomatoes again.

Meanwhile, 36% of shoppers surveyed said they were buying tomatoes at that time, while 29% said they would wait a few weeks, 20% said they would wait a few months and 3% said they would wait at least a year.

On July 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA announced they were broadening the investigation to include “food items that are commonly consumed with tomatoes,” but the agencies declined to say what other items were being scrutinized. Two days later a CDC spokesman clarified that the agency was scrutinizing salsa ingredients.

On July 9, the FDA updated its consumer advisory to include jalapeno and serrano peppers.

“We’re quite certain that neither tomatoes nor jalapenos explain the entire outbreak at this point,” Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, said at the time. “We’re presuming that both of them have caused illnesses.”

However, some in the industry are questioning whether tomatoes are involved at all.

“It appears highly unlikely that fresh tomatoes are the cause of this outbreak,” Tom Stenzel, president of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said July 11. “FDA and CDC have not dropped their hypothesis that tomatoes are to blame. That’s probably a step they’ll have to take when this is over.”

The end, however, does not appear to be in sight. CDC reported July 11 that onset of illness dates range from April 10 to July 1.

Steve Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said July 9 that all samples of tomatoes and hot peppers taken by the agency had tested negative for Salmonella Saintpaul. Pepper testing, however, had just begun.

As of July 11, the outbreak had led to 1,090 reported illnesses in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada. At least 210 people have been hospitalized, CDC said.