(June 9, 3:16 p.m.) Restaurants and retailers in Texas and New Mexico are pulling round and roma tomatoes from shelves and menus — or at least warning consumers about them — following a salmonella outbreak in the two states.

On June 4, the Subway sandwich chain pulled all tomatoes from its Texas and New Mexico restaurants and posted signs informing consumers of the outbreak.

“We know that our suppliers are not being investigated, but we want to take the side of caution and see how this unfolds,” said Les Winograd, Milford, Conn.-based Subway’s public relations coordinator.

As of June 5, Subway had no plans to substitute on-the-vines or another variety for rounds, which it uses exclusively, Winograd said.

NOT ALONE

Other Texas restaurants have responded to the outbreak by taking fresh rounds and romas off their menus or finding substitutes for them, said Wendy Saari, director of communications for the Austin-based Texas Restaurant Association.

“There are quite a few who have either pulled tomatoes from their menus or changed to using canned instead of fresh,” she said.

Saari said she had heard mostly of independent restaurants in Texas that had made changes as a result of the outbreak.

RETAILERS RESPOND, TOO

On the retail side, San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Co. announced June 3 it had removed rounds and romas from its produce departments. HEB stores also pulled its in-house brand pico de gallo.

Two other retailers with large presences in the Lone Star State — Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. and Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. — also had pulled rounds and romas from shelves as of the morning of June 5, according to media accounts.

Other retailers, however, were leaving product on shelves but posting signs warning consumers of the salmonella outbreak and advising them to cook rounds and romas before eating them.

Rice Epicurean Markets, a five-store upscale supermarket group based in Houston, put up signs June 4, said Mark Luchak, vice president of produce and floral operations.

“We’re telling people about the tomatoes that are suspect and the ones that are not,” he said, citing cherry, grape and on-the-vine as tomatoes the company continues to sell without warning signs.

Rice has stopped sourcing rounds and romas pending further investigation of the causes of the outbreak, Luchak said.

Texas retailers, restaurateurs remove round reds
San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Co. pulled selected varieties of tomatoes out of its Texas stores following an outbreak of salmonella. The Central Market-banner HEB store in Austin on June 5 had signs informing customers of what it called a “precautionary recall” of selected varieties on display in its produce, deli and prepared foods departments.