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Virus in imported tomatoes worries Florida agriculture officials

Posted: 8:57 AM, Oct 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-10 08:57:50-04
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services expressed concern Wednesday about a virus dangerous to tomatoes and peppers that has been found in tomatoes imported from Mexico.

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State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “step up, initiate tracebacks to Mexican producers, and fulfill its responsibility to protect American growers and consumers.”

Fried’s department reported inspectors found tomato brown rugose fruit virus, known as ToBRFV, in packaged Mexican tomatoes in Naples and Gainesville. The tomatoes were destroyed, a department news release said.

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the tomato and pepper virus can be easily spread through the use of contaminated tools, hands and plant-to-plant contact. “This virus is more severe for young plants and can result in 30 (percent) to 70 percent yield loss,” the university estimated.

There are no known health risks to humans from the virus. “Tomatoes showing symptoms of ToBRFV infection are still safe for human consumption, but may appear less attractive than other tomatoes,” the state Department of Agriculture said.

The state estimates Florida-grown tomatoes account for $262 million a year in economic impact.