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Tomato scare ending; fears linger for many people
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds that nearly half of consumers have changed their eating and buying habits in the past six months because they're afraid they could get sick by eating contaminated food.
They also overwhelmingly support setting up a better system to trace produce in an outbreak back to the source, the poll found.
The people who feel that way include the growers.
Virginia's East Coast Brokers, one of the largest tomato growers in the country, has been hammered by slumping demand and falling prices, although Virginia tomatoes were cleared early on, said sales manager Batista Madonia III. He said he's frustrated by the government's inability to find the root cause of the outbreak despite a nearly two-month long investigation.
The salmonella outbreak has sickened more than 1,200 people in 42 states since the first cases were seen in April.
"I guarantee in that time frame, more than 1,000 people were injured slipping on a banana peel," said Madonia.
Although federal officials lifted the tomato warning Thursday, the cause of the outbreak remains unknown. Hot peppers are under suspicion, and tomatoes have not been cleared everywhere.
While the poll found that three in four people remain confident about the overall safety of food, 46 percent said they were worried they might get sick from eating contaminated products. The same percentage said that because of safety warnings, they have avoided items they normally would have purchased.
Christy Taylor, a first-grade teacher from Sacramento, Calif., said she has all but given up on supermarket produce and is buying most of her fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farmers' market instead.
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