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PITTSBURGH -- The produce company targeted in two lawsuits over a salmonella outbreak at Sheetz convenience stores said it has been cleared by federal investigators of responsibility in the outbreak, reported the Associated Press.
Tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration between July 20 and July 26 found no evidence of the bacteria at the Wheeling, W.Va. plant owned by Coronet Foods, the company said.
Calls to the FDA to confirm the report Thursday were not immediately returned. Based on lab tests and interviews with people sickened after eating sandwiches at Sheetz, the FDA believed the carrier of the bacteria was Roma tomatoes.
An FDA inspector who filed the report called Coronet CEO Ernie Pascua earlier this week and said tests showed no contamination and that all of the company's practices were in line with federal standards, said Alicia Thayer, director of food safety for Coronet.
Health officials say tomatoes served at Sheetz convenience stores sickened more than 400 people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, but the source has not been determined.
The FDA findings would support the results of earlier tests reported by Coronet, which stopped buying and processing Roma tomatoes after the outbreak. Federal investigators are attempting to determine at what point in the process the tomatoes were contaminated.
Two lawsuits have been filed as a result of the outbreak, both targeting Coronet Foods. Altoona-based Sheetz has stores in all the states in which salmonella cases were found, as well as in North Carolina, where there have been no reports of illness.