SALMONELLA OUTBREAK HURTS SALES AT SHEETZ

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz has seen fresh-food sales plummet in the wake of a five-state outbreak of salmonella poisoning linked to food sold at its convenience stores.Since July 2, there have been more than 290 cases of salmonella-linked illnesses reported in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, officials said. The Food and Drug Administration, working with the Centers for Disease

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz has seen fresh-food sales plummet in the wake of a five-state outbreak of salmonella poisoning linked to food sold at its convenience stores.

Since July 2, there have been more than 290 cases of salmonella-linked illnesses reported in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, officials said. The Food and Drug Administration, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several state health and agricultural agencies, identified presliced tomatoes as the most likely source of salmonellosis.

As the investigation continues, officials at Sheetz have sought to reassure consumers that the company has taken all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of its food and its cooperation with authorities.

The 280-store chain disposed of its entire supply of lettuce and tomatoes, and switched produce suppliers soon after investigators narrowed their focus on fresh-cut produce used in sandwiches and salads sold at the stores.

Nevertheless, sales of the chain's signature prepared foods under the "Made-To-Order" umbrella have been hard hit, Steve Sheetz, company chairman, told SN. The proprietary MTO program includes a large assortment of hot and cold sub sandwiches, salads, burgers, bagels, breakfast items and hot dogs.

"We were down pretty heavy," Sheetz said. "We've watched it each day and it's begun to come back. I think we started out down about 18% in unit sales and worked our way back to [a] 10% [decline]."