(June 17, UPDATED, 12:44 p.m.) The Food and Drug Administration has cleared Baja California just in time for the Mexican state to start shipping roma tomatoes to the U.S.

Vice president of sales John King said June 16 that Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, expects to start receiving romas from Baja California on June 17.

King said Andrew & Williamson will not have heavy volume of romas from the state until July 1, but he welcomed the FDA’s decision to clear Baja California in its traceback investigation of a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that has resulted in more than 200 reported illnesses.

“It gets distribution and confidence going,” King said.

The FDA has advised consumers not to eat roma, red plum or round red tomatoes unless they are sourced from areas it has approved.

Florida and Mexico were two of the highest-volume production areas shipping product when the outbreak began in early April said David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods. The FDA cleared 19 Florida counties on June 11, but other areas of the state remain under investigation.

Baja California, which was not shipping when the outbreak started, was cleared June 14.

King said Baja California Sur is in full production, but that state is not on the FDA’s approved list. He said growers there will wrap up their seasons in about two weeks.

Strong demand predicted

King said it was too early to predict prices for Baja California romas, but he said demand should be strong.

“Our customers are definitely ready to go,” he said. “Everybody wants to get back in the tomato business.”

Sales manager Bob Schachtel said June 16 that Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego, will start receiving romas from Baja California in seven to 10 days and expects heavy volume by mid-July. He said quality should be excellent.

He said demand will hinge on how consumers react.

“If I had a crystal ball I couldn’t tell you that,” he said. “It all depends on how people come back to eating tomatoes.”

According to United Fresh Produce Association, there are several conditions on tomato imports from Baja California:

Each lot must have a certificate verifying that tomatoes were grown and packed in the region after April 26 — more than two weeks after the outbreak started.

Tomatoes from Baja California can only enter the U.S. through the California border crossings at Otay Mesa and Calexico.

Product cannot be packed with tomatoes from other regions.

Growers and packers must keep records to show they are in compliance with the rules, and they will be subject to audits.

Nearly 40 states cleared

The FDA has cleared nearly 40 states. Connecticut, Indiana, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., also have been added to the FDA’s list of approved sourcing areas. For the complete list, go to http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html.

Meanwhile, Acheson said during a conference call with media June 16 that the FDA is focusing on a cluster of nine cases in one specific geographic area. Acheson said it is the FDA’s “most fruitful lead to date,” but he declined to elaborate on the location of the cluster. He also declined to specify if the nine victims in that area had eaten at the same restaurant or bought tomatoes from the same retailer.

The Centers for Diesease Control and Prevention said June 16 there are 277 reported illnesses in 28 states and Washington, D.C. The agency also said that there has been onset of an illness reported as recently as June 5. The first reported illness started April 10.

The CDC said there have been no deaths officially attributed to the outbreak. However, the agency said the condition of a Texas man who died of cancer might have been complicated by salmonella.