updated 7/20/2004 7:53:22 AM ET 2004-07-20T11:53:22

Tomatoes from a produce supplier have tested positive for salmonella, but not the strain responsible for sickening dozens of people who ate at a convenience store chain, state health officials said Monday.

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The supplier of the Roma tomatoes, Wheeling, W.Va.-based Coronet Foods, said that tests turned up no contamination at its processing plant but it still would suspend purchasing and processing the tomatoes, which represent 1 percent of its line.

Pennsylvania officials had believed that tainted tomatoes or lettuce, or both, were to blame, because those who got sick ate those foods and because they ingested a strain of salmonella usually found on produce.

But the salmonella strain found on the tomatoes — taken from a Sheetz store in Greencastle, about 60 miles southwest of Harrisburg — was different from the one responsible for the illnesses, officials said.

“We have to keep looking,” said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the state Health Department.

110 sickened
The Food and Drug Administration said at least 57 people in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia who ate at Sheetz convenience stores were sickened as of last week. As of Monday, however, the number of people sickened in Pennsylvania had climbed to 110, McGarvey said.

Those sickened in Pennsylvania bought sandwiches from at least 16 Sheetz stores, company officials have said.

Salmonellosis, an infection caused by salmonella bacteria that can contaminate food or water, generally causes diarrhea, fever and cramps for up to three days. It is not often fatal. The bacteria are spread through the feces of infected animals and humans.

Also Monday, a Pennsylvania couple sued Coronet Foods, claiming they became ill from salmonella after eating sandwiches from Sheetz that had the contaminated tomatoes.

Coronet declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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