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TORONTO (Reuters) - Some restaurant chains in Canada have temporarily halted serving raw tomatoes, following a similar move in the United States, while U.S. health officials try to uncover the source of a salmonella outbreak.
McDonald's Canada, Tim Hortons Inc and Boston Pizza said on Tuesday they won't serve raw tomatoes on their food until there is clarification on the source of the U.S. outbreak.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said there had been 167 reported cases of salmonella poisoning linked to eating certain kinds of tomatoes since mid-April. At least 23 people have had to be hospitalized.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said that there have been no reported incidents in Canada related to the U.S. outbreak and that tomatoes grown in Canada have not been implicated in the investigation.
"We have two very different situations," said Alain Charette, media relations officer for the CFIA.
"We don't have any cases of this particular bug, so that certainly tells us we're in a different environment there."
Tomatoes will still be available on grocery store shelves in Canada, at least for now. The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors said its members, including the country's largest grocer, Loblaw Cos, will not withdraw the produce unless the CFIA advises them to do so.
The move by the Canadian restaurants comes after U.S. restaurants and grocery stores -- including McDonald's and Wal-Mart -- stopped selling certain types of tomatoes, sending the U.S. and Mexican industries reeling. See
The FDA warned on the weekend that the outbreak was linked to certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products with those tomatoes in them. The agency has said it does not know where the tainted tomatoes came from.
The outbreak of infections was caused by Salmonella Saintpaul, an uncommon type of the bacterium.
Salmonella bacteria are frequently responsible for food-borne illnesses. Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 72 hours and include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The illness can be particularly dangerous for the young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Rob Wilson