For consumers concerned about their produce, nutritionists have some advice: Find out where the produce was grown.

Nutritionists have advice for consumers concerned about their produce after news the nationwide tomato salmonella outbreak could be linked to jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers and cilantro.

Find out where the produce was grown.

“Buy local because you know where it’s coming from,” said Carol Watkins, nutrition program manager for the Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. “You can ask that person where did it come from, and they’ll say ‘the farm down the road or from another county.’”

The Food and Drug Administration said over the weekend it began looking at jalapeno peppers as a possible cause of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 1,000 people nationwide.

It also is studying other ingredients used to make salsa such as cilantro and Serrano peppers. Tomatoes continue to be investigated, as well.

And the agency’s advisory has some consumers skittish.

“Everybody that comes here is concerned about the outbreak,” said Debbie Juliano, co-owner of Juliano’s Produce Farms in North Utica, N.Y.

“They ask us where our tomatoes come from, and we tell them that they come from Canada and that they are ‘hot house’ tomatoes, which means they are grown right in a greenhouse,” he said.

Juliano said the farm stand does not sell cilantro, jalapeno peppers or Serrano peppers. They do sell long hots, she said, which are regular peppers that are long, skinny and hot.

“People are waiting for homegrown tomatoes,” Juliano said. “The people in this area are definitely scared of the salmonella outbreak – until we tell them where they’re from and how they’re grown and that we know the background of these tomatoes. We know the source.”

Gino Laurenzo, owner and head cook of Rio Grande Tex Mix Grill in Washington Mills, N.Y., said he makes his salsa from scratch and the tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeno peppers he uses are safe.

Laurenzo said none of the produce this region gets during this time of year is from states that have been deemed unsafe by the FDA.

Hannaford Supermarkets said they are monitoring the situation closely.

“We are not making any changes based on where our supplies are coming from,” Spokesman Michael Norton said. “We’ve checked our sources, and they are not in the scope of the concerns being raised. With that said, we are obviously watching it very closely.”

Observer-Dispatch

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is a type of bacterium that lives in the intestinal tract of some animals and can live in soil and water for months. The type of salmonella causing illness in the tomato outbreak is relatively uncommon.

What kind of illness does salmonella cause?

People who have eaten food contaminated by salmonella often have fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

During the outbreak, is it safer to eat locally grown tomatoes?

Consumers should confirm with their retailers the sources of tomatoes advertised as “locally grown.” Consumers also are reminded cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes on the vine still attached are not implicated in this outbreak, regardless of where they were grown, harvested or packed.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Web site at www.fda.gov.