by Marion Nestle
Jun 12 2008

Tomato misery

So the tomato saga continues, with the source of the Salmonella Saintpaul still not announced.  This means that you need to know which state a tomato comes from so you can avoid eating potentially tainted tomatoes from states that are still under suspicion. State-of-origin labeling, anyone? And you must take draconian measures to protect yourself from killer tomatoes: buy only the good ones (not plum, Roma, or round unless they are from OK states), wash and dry them carefully, and take your chances. Not sure what to do? Drop them in boiling water or cook them into tomato sauce. Isn’t this exciting? Not for anyone who cares about food safety or, alas, for tomato farmers likely to take the same kind of hit the spinach growers did. Check out what the Perishable Pundit has to say about all this. The is another good place to follow this story from the industry’s perspective.

And I’ll say it again: it’s time to do something about our food safety system or the lack thereof. In the meantime, according to the New York Times, Congress again and again asked Commissioner von Eschenbach how much money the FDA needs to do the job right, but “again and again Dr. von Eschenbach refused to give an answer.” Of course he refused.  He has to.  He’s a political appointee.

  • greg

    ill wait and eat local tomatoes when they are in season, thank you.

  • Sheila

    This is a great reason to have local farmers markets and local community gardens or personal gardens. This year, due to personal health changes, I cannot have the huge traditional garden I used to have for vegeables, but I still have some containers planted with veggies, including my own (safe) tomatoes. The container garden is working well so far. I think folks living in apartments could do this on a balcony if it had good sun exposure. It might reduce our dependence on commercially farmed produce that has questionable or unknown safety profile.

  • naomi

    Marion, can you please explain how the tomatoes come into contact with animal feces? None of the articles I’ve read even touch on this.

  • Nobody knows yet. That’s why we are all waiting eagerly for the results of the FDA’s investigation. It’s not always east to tell. It could be runoff from polluted streams near dairy farms, for example, wild animals, or farm workers. Whatever the cause, testing of products before they go to market would help.

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