Mexico says tomato demand falls on scare
The scare over a U.S. salmonella outbreak has reduced consumption of tomatoes in Mexico, despite repeated assurances that local produce is not contaminated, Mexican officials said Friday, the AP reported.
Mexico plans to hold talks with U.S. officials about the salmonella, which has caused few infections south of the border but has scared people away from buying tomatoes nonetheless, officials said.
"The alert issued by the U.S. government has caused a decrease in consumption of the product, even in domestic shipments," Mexico's Agriculture Department said in a news release, without giving figures to support the claim.
Tomato growers here have seen exports to the U.S. all but halted after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against three types of raw tomatoes. The U.S. counts 228 illnesses in 23 states that have been linked to salmonella-tainted tomatoes since mid-April.
The FDA has not pinpointed the source of the outbreak, but cleared imports from six countries - though not from Mexico, which supplies about 80 percent of tomatoes imported by the U.S.
Mexicans have reported eight cases of the same type of Salmonella seen in the U.S. this year, Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said. But the Mexican cases have been scattered across the country and do not constitute an epidemic, he added.
"Economic interests" may be involved in the U.S. tomato warnings, Cordova said without giving further details.