Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Salmonella in Tomatoes!!!!????!!!!

Finally today - an article in the WSJ titled Anger Rises Over Salmonella Probe". It's about time.

It's been at least weeks (maybe months) that I've been wondering how the FDA gets away with saying that tomatoes from 36 states are suspected with being contaminated with the Salmonella virus.

How can they cast such a broad suspicion? Tomatoes, unlike humans, do not travel from state to state, sneezing on airplanes to distribute their bacterial load. If there's salmonella poisoning of a batch of tomatoes in Utah, it does not travel off to Arizona. That's just not the way it works. They way it does work is that (maybe) someone in Utah (or somewhere else) watered their tomatoes with salmonella-infested liquid. So those tomatoes got dirty with salmonella bacteria, and whoever ate those tomatoes risked having a bad case of upset stomach.

Apparently about 850 people got ill, which is the equivalent of about one field of tomatoes. In one state. Not in 36.

But the FDA, in its great sagacity, and in its understandable inability to figure out what field those tomatoes came from, decided to write off the tomato harvests of 36 states in the union. Which the WSJ claims will translate to about $100M in lost revenues for tomato growers, and tomatoes left rotting on the vines.

So you'll ask, what do I suggest the FDA do?

Well, you know, some things just cannot be solved aposteriori. It happened. Some tomatoes were contaminated. FYI, if you travel to India, virtually all the tomatoes will be contaminated. Not great, but mostly people survive. So 850 people in the vast U.S. got the stomach flu from eating contaminated tomatoes. It shouldn't have happened, and the industry should police its hygiene practices. But mass hysteria over tomatoes doesn't help. My sympathies go to the tomato growers whose tomatoes are rotting on the vines, and to tomato lovers who were conned by the FDA into forgoing their daily tomato fix in favor of some obscure idea that great danger is lurking in those luscious red things. Things of danger. Pomme d'amour. Pomodoro.


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