(June 10, UPDATED 4:20 p.m.) The Food and Drug Administration’s nationwide consumer advisory on tomatoes is expected to affect different varieties in quite different ways.

The FDA advised consumers not to eat roma, red plum or red round tomatoes unless the products are sourced from areas that have been approved by the agency. The move, sparked by a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, has led some restaurants, including McDonald’s, to drop the implicated varieties.

John King, vice president of sales for San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, said June 9 that 25-pound boxes of romas from Baja California had been selling for $10.95 before the FDA expanded its advisory from two states to 50 on June 7.

“We’re starting to see that market erode,” King said.

Meanwhile, Bob Schachtel, sales manager for Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego, said flats of 12 one-pint baskets of cherry tomatoes from Baja California have been as high as $16.95. That variety, along with grape tomatoes and tomatoes on the vine, has not been implicated in the outbreak.

“They’re taking cherry tomatoes with no problem whatsoever,” Schachtel said. “Everybody is looking for cherries or grapes if they’re going to have tomatoes in their line at all.”


The FDA originally released a list including eight states, six foreign countries and Puerto Rico that have been cleared in its traceback investigation. On June 10, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services amended that list to include Florida.

King said Andrew & Williamson is working to get Baja California added to the list, based on the fact that tomato growers in the Mexican state had not started picking when the illnesses occurred, April 16-May 27.

Other Mexican states were shipping at that time. FDA spokesman Arthur Whitmore said it is possible that Baja California could be added to the agency’s list, but it was unclear how long that process might take.


On June 9, King said flats of 12 one-pint baskets of grape tomatoes from Baja California were $12, while flats of 12 one-pint baskets of cherry tomatoes were $10-12. He said he expected those markets to remain strong because of the restrictions on other varieties.

Schachtel said June 9 that it will be two weeks before Baja reaches significant volume on grape and cherry tomatoes and added that growers there and in California have reduced plantings this year because of the labor needed to pick those varieties.

Schachtel said Expo Fresh would not have romas available from Mexico for two weeks. He said if the FDA has not cleared the product by then growers likely would keep the product in the Mexican market.

Jaime Weisinger, director of sales and purchasing for Custom Pak, Immokalee, Fla., said some customers, who he declined to name, have temporarily pulled tomatoes from their shelves or dropped the products from their menus but plan to reintroduce them when volume from approved areas increases.

It was unclear, however, when that will happen. South Carolina, which has been cleared by the FDA, started its harvests in early June.

Weisinger said crops in South Carolina were delayed by cold spring weather and more recently have been hampered by heat and rain. He said volumes in the state will be reduced.