June 5, 2008 / 10:58 PM / in 9 years

Salmonella outbreak may dent bacon demand

<p>Pigs wait to be sold in an open market in a file photo. Pork belly prices are under pressure as interest in the BLT, the popular summer bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, could dip after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in nine U.S. states, with illnesses in two of them blamed on eating raw tomatoes REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel</p>

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Pork belly prices are under pressure as interest in the BLT, the popular summer bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, could dip after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in nine U.S. states, with illnesses in two of them blamed on eating raw tomatoes

Prices of pork bellies, from which bacon is sliced, fell $4 to $15 per hundredweight in the cash markets on Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Realistically, ideas that people are going to be wary of buying tomatoes can’t have been viewed as a favorable development by belly traders,” said Dan Vaught, Wachovia securities livestock analyst.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said the salmonella outbreak may be tied to the consumption of certain raw red tomatoes or products containing raw tomatoes.

The outbreak could renew fears of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. In 2006, three people died and more than 200 became ill after eating E. coli-tainted spinach.

Al Wagner Jr., Texas Agrilife Extension Service food processing specialist, said consumers can guard against salmonella bacteria by thoroughly washing tomatoes.

“What happens is that salmonella is usually on the surface, so a regular wash will get it off and you’re good to go,” Wagner said. “But if salmonella gets into the wash water at a packing plant, and certain conditions of temperature of the fruit and water are met, then the salmonella can actually enter into the tomato through the end where the stem had been - or any place the fruit has been punctured.”

Salmonella bacteria are frequently responsible for food-borne illnesses and may cause vomiting, abdominal pains and bouts of fever in those who ingest them.

Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Additional reporting by Jerry Bieszk; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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