by Marion Nestle
Jun 30 2008

The tomato (maybe?) saga continues

The epidemic of illness caused by the unusual saintpaul type of Salmonella has now affected more than 800 people, and federal agencies seem more than perplexed about its source. The FDA says tomatoes, and called for their removal from the market, an action with devastating consequences for the tomato industry. But cases are still turning up. Perhaps that is why the CDC thinks maybe something else might be the cause. Salsa? Guacamole? The produce industry is understandably interested and two websites are excellent sources of day-to-day information: the straight-news Packer, and the tell-it-like-it-is Perishable Pundit. Go to the FDA website for updates on the ongoing investigation and also provides lists of tomatoes safe to eat. Part of the difficulty in following this story is that two federal agencies are involved: the FDA and the CDC. The CDC has its own version of events (with useful maps of where the cases are in the U.S.). The USDA , which only deals with animal foods, doesn’t seem to be part of this one. It should be. The ultimate source of this outbreak has to be animal waste. This tomato (?) outbreak is precisely why we need a single food agency to oversee food safety. When, oh when?

Update, July 1: The Wall Street Journal reviews the outbreak and explains why the produce and restaurant industries are so angry.

Update, July 2: The Wall Street Journal quotes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt , saying that because multiple countries and multiple agencies are involved in the investigation, “it shows the need for better cooperation.” No. It shows the need for a single food agency!

Update, July 3: I’ve just discovered USA Today’s nifty time line of the tomato saga.

Comments

  • Bix
  • July 1, 2008
  • 5:56 am

“This tomato (?) outbreak is precisely why we need a single food agency to oversee food safety.”

Yes.

Seems like all the more reason to buy your tomatoes from a local distributor…and pressure the feds for better labeling. Why can’t five digits tell us what farm, and what packing plant, a tomato came from and passed through?

I consult for the Eat Well Guide, where a simple zip or postal code search can lead the way to a locally-grown tomato…

http://www.eatwellguide.org

  • Mark
  • July 1, 2008
  • 8:22 pm

This happened in Japan in 1996 ago with E. coli (O157). The government blamed daikon sprouts (kaiware daikon). When all the dust settled, the daikon sprout industry was out of business, the cause was never really determined, and at least a couple of daikon sprout farmers won damages from the government in a court case.

[...] practices. Take the recent Tomato/Salmonella outbreak (or, as Marion Nestle so aptly renames it, THE TOMATO (MAYBE?) SAGA.  What is most troubling to me (and, I’m sure everyone else who has a brain and eats fresh food) [...]

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