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Rio Queen Citrus to adopt test-and-hold in response to grape tomato recall

After detecting Salmonella during random tests, Rio Queen Citrus sparked a recall of its grape tomatoes, and announced plans “for the foreseeable future” to hold all tomato shipments until the company has microbiological test results in hand, Mike Martin, president of Rio Queen Citrus, told The Produce News Dec. 2.

Front Row Produce notified its customers of the recalled 10-ounce pint and 10-pound bulk grape tomatoes distributed throughout Missouri and Illinois to foodservice distributors and retail stores.

“When we were notified late Friday evening [Nov. 25], we initiated the voluntary recall,” said Justin Howell, general manager for Front Row Produce. At the request of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the firm followed up with a formal press release Nov. 30, he said.

“There were 243 boxes of grape tomatoes (20 pounds. each) that were recalled,” said Mr. Martin. “The fruit was shipped from us to two different receivers, and each of those receivers has recalled the product.”

“We pull a sample from each lot of tomatoes when they arrive at our facility in Texas and forward that sample to a lab for microbiological testing,” he said. “For the foreseeable future, we will hold all tomato shipments until we have the results of microbiological tests, and then fruit will be released on a lot-by-lot basis.”

Rio Queen Citrus, based in Mission, TX, announced that all harvesting and packing of tomatoes by the grower has been suspended.

“All processes are being reviewed at the farm and through the packing operation in Mexico to attempt to identify the source of the contamination,” he added. “At this point the investigation is ongoing.”

Mr. Howell said that it is unlikely that his company's grape tomatoes made it beyond the wholesale channels to consumers because of the quick turnaround time.

The tomatoes marked as Front Row Produce can be found in clear plastic 10-ounce packages, and the suspected lot numbers -- 2310802, 2310405 or 2510401 -- are marked on the case label, not on the individual plastic packages, the company said. The 10-pound bulk grape tomatoes are packaged for wholesale in a plain brown cardboard box labeled only with lot number 2310801.

As of Dec. 1, Front Row Produce, based in St. Louis, MO, said that it plans to place a green lot number sticker on the bottom side of each package to help track shipments.

“Any packages that do not contain this green sticker should be considered suspect and under recall,” the company said.