The Checkout

You Say Tomato, I Say Salmonella

Annys Shin

Hi. Your food safety nerd here checking in. (Aren't you so glad Nancy and Ylan are writing now too so you don't have to read about bugs in your food all the time?) I've been keeping an eye on this salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes and after a few updates, it looks like it's finally hit the big time.

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued a broad warning, telling consumers not to eat raw Roma, red plum or red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the following places:

California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico

The FDA will continue to update this list of safe sources here.

Also safe are cherry, grape, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.

The tomato warning is a prime example of how complicated these outbreak investigations can be. The illnesses date back to mid-April! Since then, more than 145 people have become infected with an unusual strain known as Salmonella sereotype Saintpaul. (Is the person who first identified the bug from Minnesota or Catholic or both? Anyone?) States reporting illnesses linked to the outbreak include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The outbreak comes a year after FDA launched its Tomato Safety Initiative, which was
modeled after the Leafy Greens Safety Initiative that FDA started in the summer of 2006--right before the massive spinach outbreak.

Washington-area readers might find it interesting that FDA focused it's Tomato Safety Initiative on the eastern shore of Virginia as well as Florida. Over the past 10 years, the FDA says, most tomato-associated outbreaks have been traced back to the eastern shore of VA.

We will keep you updated on this. In the meantime: look closely at where your tomatoes were grown and don't forget to apply the same scrutiny to products or dishes (if you're eating out) that contain raw tomato such as salads, salsa or bruschetta.

Safe eating everyone!

By Annys Shin |  June 9, 2008; 11:07 AM ET Annys Shin
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Comments

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Salmonella and tomatoes have an ongoing relationship. Sadly, it's a long list of outbreaks. We've gotten better at tracing the serotypes and finding the source of the tainted food, but we have to do more: we have to prevent contaminated food from entering the food supply in the first place.

In 1990, a reported 174 salmonella javiana illnesses were linked to raw tomatoes as part of a four-state outbreak. In 1993, 84 reported cases of salmonella montevideo were part of a three-state outbreak. In January 1999, salmonella baildon was recovered from 86 infected persons in eight states. In July 2002, an outbreak of salmonella javiana occurred associated with attendance at the 2002 U.S. Transplant Games held in Orlando, Florida during late June of that year. Ultimately, the outbreak investigation identified 141 ill persons in 32 states who attended the games. All were linked to consumption of raw tomatoes.

During August and September 2002, a salmonella newport outbreak affected the East Coast. Ultimately, over 404 confirmed cases were identified in over 22 states. Epidemiological analysis indicated that tomatoes were the most likely vehicle, and were traced back to the same tomato packing facility in the mid-Atlantic region.

In early July 2004, as many as 564 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with consumption of contaminated tomatoes purchased at Sheetz Convenience Store were reported in five states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. Seventy percent were associated with tomatoes in food prepared at Sheetz convenience stores. In 2006 two outbreaks of salmonella-tainted tomatoes where reported by the FDA. One was blamed for nearly 100 illnesses in 19 states. FDA also traced tomatoes involved in another outbreak involving 183 people in 21 states.

Posted by: Bill Marler | June 9, 2008 12:29 PM

I notice that Mexico is NOT listed on the "safe" list.

I am guessing that somewhere in a field in our southern neighbor's territory tomatoes were picked and loaded onto trailers. Trailers that had been used to haul poultry products previously and were not properly cleaned and sanitized for the switch from raw poultry to vegetables.

There is a reason that US trailers used to haul poultry are not used to subsequently haul fresh produce; cross contamination is a real risk. Do Mexican trucking companies follow these guidelines or do they operate under the idea that a reefer trailer is a reefer trailer and can be used for any product that needs chilling?

I think that the FDA would do well to investigate the trailers that were used to haul these tomatoes to the distribution points. I think they will find the source of the salmonella contamination in the trailers.

And then what? The US cannot regulate a foreign trucking company that they have opened the roads up to. More illnesses down the road is all I can see unless screening is mandated at the distribution points before produce is shipped all over the US. More regulation for us, none for them. What a great deal!

Posted by: Edie Calhoun | June 9, 2008 12:38 PM

I am in agreement with Edie on this one ...

Posted by: Joseph Gaviota | June 9, 2008 12:44 PM

The warning is so confusing that for now I will not eat any raw tomatoes.

Posted by: tina | June 9, 2008 12:49 PM

Like you said Edie, you're just "guessing." Did you read the article at all?

"Over the past 10 years, the FDA says, most tomato-associated outbreaks have been traced back to the eastern shore of VA."

Posted by: Fred | June 9, 2008 12:59 PM

Two words: Farmer's Market.

Shopping locally carries with it no guarantees that all food will be free from harmful bacteria. It does, however, afford you an opportunity to look the farmer who grew your food straight in the eye. You can see the pride of growing a healthful, safe product there. Also, there is less environmental impact because the food doesn't have to be shipped so far. Finally, it tastes better, especially the tomatoes.

Posted by: Patti Reis | June 9, 2008 1:03 PM

Please irradiate my food. Label with a big label and I will take my chances with long term exposure to irradiated food vs. short time exposure to Salmonella and/or E-Coli


Posted by: For the love of Pete | June 9, 2008 1:08 PM

Edie, you bring up a very real and dangerous possibility. The problem with tracing an outbreak (saying nothing of the politics of inspecting foreign companies) to something like an improperly sanitized trailer is that by the time the fruit are shipped, distributed to markets, possibly processed, stored until they are sold, consumed, illness develops, said illness is reported, and finally the CDC finds enough hits in PulseNet to make the connection, that an outbreak is/has occurred. It may very well already even be over (as happened last year). This says nothing to whether the original source of the outbreak (in your hypothetical situation, the trailers) is still available, has been cleaned already, hauled other products, or otherwise mask any ability to detect it as a source of contamination. This is also true of many other potential sources of contamination (slicers in the Sheetz outbreak? no one knows for sure...).

Posted by: Michael Mahovic | June 9, 2008 1:09 PM

Fred, the article is stating historical data. Anyone suggesting where this outbreak originated from, until more data is collected, is at this point also, "guessing."

FYI: Virginia's Eastern Shore is not currently producing tomatoes...

Posted by: Mike | June 9, 2008 1:15 PM

I certainly agree with Ms. Reis; not only is the produce on offer at the local farmer's market fresher, tastier, and less expensive than that from the grocer, but is subject to substantially less risk of contamination.

Keeping your body, the local economy, and your wallet healthier makes buying produce from the farmer's market an ideal way to avoid consuming contaminated produce.

Posted by: Ian Halliday | June 9, 2008 1:15 PM

Why would you question other countries ways of doing things when the biggest problem is within your own borders?

why limit the comment to only south of the border? why not mention over seas transport?

Posted by: not-a-racist | June 9, 2008 1:24 PM

oh yeah i forgot, if you want to be sure your produce is free of anything you don't want, pick it yourself or have people you trust to pick it for you. Hope you're willing to pay for it $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Posted by: not-a-racist | June 9, 2008 1:25 PM

What about iodizing? My guess is that an awful lot of WaPo's readers have either lived or traveled in countries where, if you want to eat salads, you get used to soaking the greens and veggies in boiled, filtered water with an iodine tablet for at least 20 minutes.

I tend to buy the vine-attached tomatoes (in the optimistic hope that they'll taste a bit like homegrown until our own tomatoes come in), but I'm curious about whether iodizing is something that would be protective if one were to buy the tomatoes at risk. I recall reading during the spinach outbreak that it wouldn't work in that case because the contaminant was somehow part of the leaf structure (?), but what about tomatoes? Shin or anyone?

Posted by: sometime expat | June 9, 2008 1:27 PM

I hate people that hate Mexico for no reason. The tomatoes were NOT traced to Mexico as was pointed out in an earlier comment. Even if a dirty trailer was responsible, at least Mexicans are smart enough to wash their fruits before eating them. Here in the US no one wants to take responsibility for themselves...any idea how hard it is to get salmonella from a washed tomato? Anyone? You could ask your doctor, but for some reason you prefer to hate anyone that doesn't fit your idea of "normal" or "acceptable". The level of intolerance and racism in this country is amazing. Even with a black presidential hopeful the people here are still looking for someone to hate. Hate yourselves for being so close-minded and ignorant.

Posted by: jojowasaman | June 9, 2008 1:30 PM

Has this been linked to any canned products? I just got over an illness with the simptems that have been described for this outbreak after eating canned tomatoes.

Posted by: Keith | June 9, 2008 1:34 PM

Hi there! re: Tomato and Salmonella article.
In my head I am screaming, "Where was the Editor?" In this excerpt: "Washington-area readers might find it interesting that FDA focused it's Tomato Safety Initiative on the eastern shore of Virginia as well as Florida."
It's "its", not "it's". "Its" is ownership but "it's" is the contraction of "it is".
Enough said. Thank you.

Posted by: Denise O'Connor | June 9, 2008 1:38 PM

Edie hates Mexicans.

Posted by: MRod | June 9, 2008 1:49 PM

Keith,

Should not have the same issue with canned goods due to the high temperatures used in the canning process. Here is a link to an page with some good information --> http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Salmonella_Questions_&_Answers/index.asp

Posted by: Mark | June 9, 2008 1:52 PM

I am a diehard tomoto lover! Unfortunately my solution to this problem is I don't buy tomatoes anymore :-(

Posted by: Roni in WA | June 9, 2008 2:06 PM

oops to bad I can't spell/type TOMATO lol

Posted by: Roni in WA | June 9, 2008 2:07 PM

I am sorry Denise but "it's" was used correctly. "Washington-area readers might find it interesting that FDA focused it's Tomato Safety Initiative on the eastern shore of Virginia as well as Florida.

subject noun: FDA
verb(action): focused
possessive pronoun: it's
object noun: initiative

Posted by: Major English | June 9, 2008 2:07 PM

yesterday I was looking for guacamole in Whole Foods and was told that all containers had been yanked from the shelves due to a salmonella outbreak. best I can tell, their guacamole contains no tomatoes, though I know that some versions do.

Posted by: eomcmars | June 9, 2008 2:08 PM

goodness, where did Major English go to school? "it's" is never the possessive, it's always (as here) the contraction of "it is," just as Denise stated.

Posted by: eomcmars | June 9, 2008 2:10 PM

I stand corrected.

Posted by: Major English | June 9, 2008 2:11 PM

Edie doesn't (hope apostrophe is correct) hate Mexicans. He has a legitimate point.
dsdindc

Posted by: ddindc | June 9, 2008 2:40 PM

oops!!! dsdindc is ddindc.

Posted by: ddindc | June 9, 2008 2:41 PM

Tomatoes aren't the only dangerous vegetables out there today. Read about the latest Monterey County E.coli0157:H7 lettuce problem: http://thecalifornian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080609/NEWS01/806090303/1002

Posted by: Frank | June 9, 2008 2:41 PM

so very glad I'm growing my own tomatoes this year. Not only are my tomatoes salmonella free, but the little garden is also a haven of therapy during the day. Try growing your own. You'll be rewarded. Easy to do, you can even grow them in pots. Doesn't have to be limited to a lot of space and outdoors.

Posted by: oddoneout | June 9, 2008 2:44 PM

Edie does not "hate Mexicans". Or "hate Mexico". Or anything or anyone else, really.

Edie doesn't much care for over-paid bureaucrats that allow all these unsafe products into US borders without regard to public safety. We have no way of knowing how food and drug products are handled outside our own borders. Take note of the heparin deaths, the melamine in pet foods (pet deaths), lead paint on toys (brain damage for kids), glycol in toothpaste and all the other scandals associated with consumer safety lately.

Tomatoes and other fresh veggies do not spontaneously grow salmonella as a rule. It is almost certainly a case of cross contamination from somewhere. Shipping trailers and containers are a likely vector for any fresh food contamination. The US imports a lot of tomatoes from Mexico during the "early season", thus the example (and Mexico was not on the "FDA safe list" last I looked). The tomatoes could have been from Timbuktu or Kalamazoo; the root question is "Where does the massive contamination begin?".

Reefer trailers contain plywood under the interior ChemLite sheathing that can become saturated with chicken blood or other contaminants over time if the ChemLite is cracked. (Forklifts loading and unloading trailers ensure that the CL sheathing is always cracked somewhere). Bacteria will grow rampantly in the wood underneath the CL. It is next to impossible to remove it unless the trailer is gutted and outfitted with new plywood from the bottom up. Thus, raw meat trailers are not used to haul fresh vegetables in the US.

It was a supposition about how so many tomatoes could have become so contaminated so quickly. It is maddening to watch the FDA run around wringing its collective hands when a little common sense could allow them to close in on the vector. Test the shipping containers and be done with it already! Unless the trailers have been torn apart and completely refitted, the evidence will still be there. Condemn the trailers. End of story. Overseas refrigerated shipping containers should also be checked. If they are contaminated, condemn them.

I can certainly see why this presidential election season has been such a joke. There is always someone who sees "hate speech" everywhere they look even when it is obvious that nothing of the sort was intended. Forget all the "politically correct" baiting nonsense and start finding the contaminant. After all, it may be a "terr-ist plot" to make us all sick, lol.

Posted by: Edie Calhoun | June 9, 2008 3:03 PM

Edie does not "hate Mexicans". Or "hate Mexico". Or anything or anyone else, really.

Edie doesn't much care for over-paid bureaucrats that allow all these unsafe products into US borders without regard to public safety. We have no way of knowing how food and drug products are handled outside our own borders. Take note of the heparin deaths, the melamine in pet foods (pet deaths), lead paint on toys (brain damage for kids), glycol in toothpaste and all the other scandals associated with consumer safety lately.

Tomatoes and other fresh veggies do not spontaneously grow salmonella as a rule. It is almost certainly a case of cross contamination from somewhere. Shipping trailers and containers are a likely vector for any fresh food contamination. The US imports a lot of tomatoes from Mexico during the "early season", thus the example (and Mexico was not on the "FDA safe list" last I looked). The tomatoes could have been from Timbuktu or Kalamazoo; the root question is "Where does the massive contamination begin?".

Reefer trailers contain plywood under the interior ChemLite sheathing that can become saturated with chicken blood or other contaminants over time if the ChemLite is cracked. (Forklifts loading and unloading trailers ensure that the CL sheathing is always cracked somewhere). Bacteria will grow rampantly in the wood underneath the CL. It is next to impossible to remove it unless the trailer is gutted and outfitted with new plywood from the bottom up. Thus, raw meat trailers are not used to haul fresh vegetables in the US.

It was a supposition about how so many tomatoes could have become so contaminated so quickly. It is maddening to watch the FDA run around wringing its collective hands when a little common sense could allow them to close in on the vector. Test the shipping containers and be done with it already! Unless the trailers have been torn apart and completely refitted, the evidence will still be there. Condemn the trailers. End of story. Overseas refrigerated shipping containers should also be checked. If they are contaminated, condemn them.

I can certainly see why this presidential election season has been such a joke. There is always someone who sees "hate speech" everywhere they look even when it is obvious that nothing of the sort was intended. Forget all the "politically correct" baiting nonsense and start finding the contaminant. After all, it may be a "terr-ist plot" to make us all sick, lol.

Posted by: Edie Calhoun | June 9, 2008 3:05 PM

The ATTA-A-A-ACK...
...Of The Killer TO-MA-A-A-TOS!!

Chimpy has wrecked every single Federal agency. The FDA and the USDA can no longer protect the nation's food supply.

We're just seeing the beginning of the end. Wait till the genetically modified foods start killing people en masse. Things will get interesting.

Posted by: Tom3 | June 9, 2008 3:34 PM

Tomato Warning? Is that a new category for the homeland security alert levels?

Posted by: Yuri Lipitzmeov | June 9, 2008 3:51 PM

Am I correct that companies do not need to label produce by country of origin(though some do it voluntarily)? That makes it a bit harder to identify what not to eat based on your country list. Another ringing endorsement for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). I think the recently passed farm bill will make it mandatory for many agriculture/meat products (but not all), but the changes may not be implemented for years. In the meantime, big ag makes big money, and we just might have to get sick.

Posted by: bigeugene | June 9, 2008 4:02 PM

What about tomatoes from Farmer's Markets?

Posted by: lsac | June 9, 2008 4:08 PM

Major English: You need to go back to school! Normally, the apostrophe indicates a possessive, but the word "it" is one of the rare exceptions. Denise is absolutely right, "it's" is a contraction of "it is" and "its" is actually the possessive form. Look it up, and don't be so smug and self-righteous. I wouldn't bother with this (it's not an English or grammar class, after all) but your rather high-handed, holier-than-thou attitude bugged me, especially since you are wrong! BTW, I am not going to worry about tomatoes at all!

Posted by: Robert | June 9, 2008 4:10 PM

They grow tobacco in Virginia and we know that kills people. Who's stopping the sale of that?

Posted by: Mike | June 9, 2008 4:14 PM

When I received this by email from the "Emergency Network" I thought it strange that a nationwide Tornado warning was being issued. Now I see that "tomato" is not "tornado".

Posted by: JT | June 9, 2008 4:16 PM

I'm sorry to say that I was unable to find the discoverer of the organism, but did find that the correct designation of the organism is Salmonella enterica serotype Saintpaul. The species is Salmonella enterica (named after Dr. Salmon, who dicovered it and the gut where it works its unpleasant effect) and this particular strain is the Saintpaul serotype. A serotype is "a grouping of microorganisms or viruses based on their cell surface antigens. Serovars allow organisms to be classified at the sub-species level; an issue of particular importance in epidemiology" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotype).

Posted by: apikoros | June 9, 2008 4:28 PM

My 2yo daughter got a serious case of Salmonella poisoning last week from eating a raw Walmart tomatoe... in Knoxville TN. Last week no one in East TN had heard about it. Today, there are several people in my social sphere who have gotten it. Even though Tennessee is supposed to be a safe State. Go figure.
mP

Posted by: Miles | June 9, 2008 4:31 PM

The writer fails to finish with what I can do to protect myself. Will washing the product eliminate the risk, or do we just stop eating tomatoes until this resolves itself? Is Salmonnela on the inside of the product too?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2008 4:31 PM

I'm sorry to hear that your daughter got sick from eating a tomato tainted with Salmonella.

Tennessee-grown tomatoes are considered "safe", according to the list posted by the FDA but it is very likely the tomato that made your daughter sick was grown elsewhere, in one of the locations currently being investigated. The "safe states" on that list just means that tomatoes grown in those states are not currently thought to be involved with the salmonella outbreak.

I hope your little one is OK.

Posted by: To Miles | June 9, 2008 4:57 PM

The entire country suffers from a much more dangerous disease... hypochondria!

I'm going to have a spinach and tomato salad for dinner; washed of course.

Posted by: To All | June 9, 2008 5:11 PM

Re - Shin's original post: Salmonella nomenclature is confusing, but the "Saintpaul" tag refers to the location where the serotype (after being identified by DNA fingerprinting as new) was first isolated. For anyone wanting technical information on Salmonella nomenclature, see "Salmonella Nomenclature," Brenner, FW, et al; J Clin Microbiol., July 2000; vol 38(7), pp 2465-2467. The CDC, through PulseNet, maintains a list of the nearly 2,500 distinct serotypes identified so far.

Re - posts on source: Tracing an outbreak of Salmonella relating to tomatoes is exceedingly difficult. Days pass between when a patient eats a contaminated food and gets sick enough to go to the doctor. After that, it takes time to test whether the sickness was caused by Salmonella (as opposed to a number of other bacteria or viruses), after which its DNA fignerprint must be painstakingly compared to all other serotypes now on record (it's almost never a perfect match). Then, the epidemiologists hit the pavement, interviewing the sickened people. Imagine someone coming to your door weeks after you recovered from your illness, and asking, "Can you list everything you ate that had raw tomatoes in it during the week before you got sick?" Or, "What kind of tomato did that fast-food restaurant serve in/on your burger?" And that's if they -know- tomatoes are the likely culprit. After they find a link, they then have to trace it back through an extraordinarily complex delivery chain to find the exact source of the contamination (farmer - local packer - shipper - wholesaler - repacker - grocery or restaurant staff).

(Tangent: VA's Eastern shore is one of the top three producers of tomatoes in the US, after CA and FL; for example, Byrd Foods.)

Re - farmers' markets: Most farmers (even big ag) cooperate with the FDA because not doing so quickly loses customers (just among posters here today, how many have already decided not to eat tomatoes for a while?). Also, Salmonella is so pervasive that even the most honest farmers can find it on their crops if they look hard enough. But, before anyone overreacts and stops using farmers' markets altogether, please recall we only have about 150 confirmed cases of people getting sick from a single strain of salmonella in tomatoes. Truth is, our food supply is remarkably safe, despite the fact that the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition has been consistently and systematically starved of funds under two Administrations.

Re - Salmonella inside/outside the tomato: most often, bacteria are on the outside of fruits and vegetables (always always wash your produce), but strangely, salmonella can get inside a tomato. The mechanism isn't known. In some cases where the FDA has investigated, they have found salmonella in the local pondwater and some (though not all) tomatoes, but not in any of the equipment used by the farmer. One theory is that the bacteria gets into cut-scars of tomatoes, but it is hard to prove or disprove that it happens in the field. For those with compromised immune systems, don't assume that washing the tomato will be sufficient.

Note: Chilling tomatos below 40*F will slow bacterial growth, though won't kill any bacteria (you must cook it above 165*F for 1 minute, or above 145*F for 10 minutes, to do that). Refrigeration below 50*F will, however, trigger enzymes in tomatoes that quickly break down the flavor components and sugars, leaving it a pasty echo of its former glory.

Posted by: Bruce | June 9, 2008 5:43 PM

I'm out in Wisconsin, and I found out about this last week when I went shopping at my local Sam's Club.

I went to buy a six pack of tomatoes, and it came up "do not sell" at the register. The manager told the check out person why, and then I went home and had to do research to figure out if my tomatoes were safe (they are from Canada or locally grown, depending upon my source, so, yes).

I wish they'd publicized this a little earlier. It's summer and it's tomatoes!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 9, 2008 5:45 PM

Time for my big juicy RAW tomato with basil!!!

The FDA is on the side of big business. They want you to cook everything because they know raw food can prevent most any illness.

Health Benefits of Tomato :

1. A large consumption of tomato can help improve skin texture and color.
2. Tomato is a good blood purifier.
3. Tomato helps in cases of congestion of the liver (protects the liver from cirrhosis) as well as for dissolving gallstones.
4. Tomato is a natural antiseptic therefore it can help protect against infectionNicotinic acid in tomatoes can help to reduce blood cholesterol, thus helps prevent heart diseases.
5. Vitamin K in tomatoes helps to prevent hemorrhages.
6. Tomato contain lycopene (the red pigment in tomato), this pigment is a powerful antioxidant that can also fight cancer cells.

EAT RAW TOMATOES TODAY!

Posted by: Kevin Schmidt | June 9, 2008 5:50 PM

This would not have happened if people would buy local produce instead of something that was shipped a thousand miles.

Again, it was not the tomatoes that were infected, it was the container that was previously infected when it hauled poultry and didn't sanitize the container afterwards.

Try preparing chicken or raw eggs on your counter top and then make a salad right afterwards without first cleaning the counter top.

Technically you may get salmonella from the salad. But it was the chicken or eggs that was infected in the first place.

Posted by: Kevin Schmidt | June 9, 2008 5:56 PM

I find it very hard to understand why any fruit or vegetable can not be traced back to the source by their bar codes? My God, everything has a bar code..I agree it would be better to buy your fruit and vegetables from local vendors. Not only do they taste better because they ripen on the vine..but Europe has been doing that for years, as well as every other countries. One can go back to the original source much faster, if something goes wrong and think of what it could do for our farmers, for it gets rid of the middle man, whom bleed us from both ends. A draw back is that not all the vegetables or fruits are in season.. But we will always have the small company or large, to supply us with those, of course you will pay more...

Posted by: nallcando | June 9, 2008 6:25 PM

You say tomato, I say NAFTA and Mexico= salmonella.

Posted by: Xthat | June 9, 2008 6:48 PM

Why hasn't the FDA tracked this down yet?

They're panicking the entire country and stopping all tomato sales dead.

Just because a few tomatoes got contaminated.

Chimpy has wrecked our government.

Posted by: Tom3 | June 9, 2008 7:07 PM


The FDA warning if for red plum, red Roma, and round red tomatoes. To me most tomatoes look red and round. Is the "round red tomato" a specific type of tomato, or does the warning apply to all tomatoes that are red and round (which would be most tomatoes).

I would really appreciate clarification from anyone who knows. Thank you.

Posted by: NRS | June 9, 2008 7:34 PM

Strange how you cannot comment on the related article about McDonald's no longer serving fresh tomatoes.

It's official. McDonald's no longer serves ANY food that is healthy.

Posted by: Kevin Schmidt | June 9, 2008 7:40 PM

I missed two days of work last week due to food poisoning. I vomitted 8 times in 8 hours and couldn't eat for 30 hours after it hit. It was the most terrible experience I've ever had. I can only help but wonder if it had to do with any of the tomato products I ate :-(

Posted by: Tetris | June 9, 2008 8:10 PM

It bugs me, too, when I see "it's" used as a possessive in any material that should have been checked by an editor. One nit-picking note, though. A few people have posted that it's always a contraction of "it is." It can also be a contraction of "it has."

Posted by: fudd | June 9, 2008 8:40 PM

NRS,

When you think "tomato," the image that probably pops in your head is what is usually referred to as a "red, round" fruit. Plum (Roma is a type of plum) tomatoes are often smaller and more oval shaped, and are generally used sliced in a salad, or for processing because they have less water and more sugar content.

Other common types of tomatoes include cherry and grape, which are the mini-tomatoes you see in salads, or eat straight out of a plastic clamshell box.

There are other types as well, but those are your more common store-bought tomatoes.

Posted by: Mike Mahovic | June 9, 2008 9:13 PM

*yawn*

Posted by: *yawn* | June 9, 2008 9:25 PM

California is on both the safe list and the unsafe list.

Posted by: NY | June 9, 2008 9:33 PM

Mix these two together and get your veggies the safe way.
Half glass of V-8 SPICY
One lightly chilled Bud Lite Lime.
3 or 4 of these bad boys will make you care less about how rotten our world has become.

Posted by: Red Beer | June 9, 2008 10:18 PM

Why can't you just wash your tomatoes very well and spray them with vinegar? Wouldn't that make a raw tomato safe no matter where it came from?

Posted by: maswylie | June 9, 2008 10:43 PM

Wow, maybe now we can pass a law that that all tomatoes must be pasteurized - so much easier and more profitable than maintaining a sanitary food production and distribution system. Of course, maybe it is the dirty Mexicans - lets send them all back home.

Posted by: Dan | June 9, 2008 11:02 PM

How ironic that we would never eat products like tomatoes from Mexico while visiting tat country, but are bombarded by this "iffy"produce at our supermarkets. And try to identify where your produce comes from. Even Sherlock Holmes would have a tough time figuring it out! I am currently experiencing some sort of stomach bug and recently ate raw tomatoes along with so many other questionable things like raw berries, salad, etc. My pet peeve is not only the produce, but the human error in handling it. Looks like I'll be eating home more oftn!

Posted by: Dorice | June 10, 2008 7:20 AM

It's not racist to suggest these tomatoes came from Mexico -- most tomatoes grown in the spring come from there. Like Dorice said, everyone knows that when they are in Mexico not to eat raw tomatoes and lettuce or you will get sick. Why would the same tomatoes, shipped to the U.S., be any safer to eat?

Cherry tomatoes and "tomatoes on the vine" are grown on trellises and do not touch the ground. "Vine Ripe" tomatoes and specialty varieties like "heirlooms" are grown the same way. Most other tomatoes are grown on "bushes" that come into contact with the soil and dirty irrigation water. The FDA, fast food chains, and the big box stores think you're too stupid to understand this. People need to know MORE about where their food comes from, not less.

Posted by: Paul | June 10, 2008 10:44 AM

Why wouldn't you eat the tomatoes in Mexico? The quality of the produce sold in Mexico far exceeds the tasteless fruits and vegetables we have available in the US. Why is this this? Because we buy asparagus from Argentina and pineapples from South Africa!

Go to Mexico now and eat a Manilla or Champagne Mango, they're in season right now, and you will never eat a bred for shipping under ripe red mango from Kroger ever again.

We should learn from Mexicans...eat local and eat in season. Locally grown tomatoes don't show up in my farmers market until August.

Posted by: To All | June 10, 2008 11:12 AM

Come on you people,,,, first let the agencies check on who has the problem... every time something happen with food we want to blame mexico and our surprise its always our country the USA but the damage its done and nobody say nothing after we know the source. lets not take wild guess on this. you can even imagine how many rules and concepts they put to this people to thay can export fresh produce into USA more than our local farmers YES more thay cant use strong pesticides, and many many rules but we always think they are the bad guys.
According to the guys that they say that they use the same traylers to haul poultry and produce No they dont.. its very but very different industry the produce season its very short in mexico I know because im the fresh produce industry and believe me they had the quality but we dont accept that we prefer to pay more in the east for dutch peppers or spanish tomatoes but its true mexico have the quality, the standars that they are using came from USA Universities like UcDavis, Texas A&M, Cal Poly, they do integrated pesticide programs, they are certified every single lot and of course they have 100% inspection on the border that cost millions and millions of dollars just to cross to our States, and of course our growers can don everything, can apply averything why, nobody controls them, but sure the bad guys is the guys who wants to reach the maximum quality for the american people.... Think, be smart, its very old industry and maybe some business mans want to do something.... Inteligence...

Posted by: Joe | June 10, 2008 3:35 PM

All you have to do with any vegetables or fruits is wash them in a solution of water and bleach and it will kill the salmonella. Maybe McDonalds is saving some money taking this product for a while. Wash your fruits and don't hurt the other tomatoe producers that are going through a bad moment at this time. I am sure that the FDA go to any supermarket and test all the vegetables they will allways discover something bad with them. Spend some money teaching the pickers to wash there hands. Better yet wash all produce before they leave the farms.

Posted by: Alex Leschhorn | June 10, 2008 4:22 PM

"Mexican growers, who produce 84 percent of the tomatoes imported by the United States, were also feeling the pain.

Mexico sends nearly 700,000 metric tons of tomatoes a year to the United States in a business worth $900 million, according to a Mexican vegetable exporters association."

Source:http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN6A33595920080610?sp=true

Mexico looks like a good place to start looking fort he culprits...84% of imported tomatoes are from there.

Posted by: Consider the Source | June 10, 2008 4:47 PM

I wish the warning also stated clearly -

THERE IS NO RISK IF TOMATOES ARE COOKED OR BOILED.

or

TO AVOID RISK TOMATOES MAY BE BOILED OR COOKED.

Posted by: Nilima | June 10, 2008 4:48 PM

Shin: "Washington-area readers might find it interesting that FDA focused it's Tomato Safety Initiative..."

The word "it's" is not correct here. It was not meant as "it is" or "it has", but as a possessive which does not require an apostrophe.

Always wash your fruits and veggies! Cook the tomatoes in question. Peace.

Posted by: Lana | June 10, 2008 6:08 PM

Has anyone bought tomatoes at the market in Del Ray this past weekend AND eaten them? Just wondering if I should stare at the 2 I bought or eat them.

Posted by: susan | June 10, 2008 7:20 PM

Just wash your tomatoes very well with warm water and soap and make sure they dont have any cracks on the surface where bacteria could possibly seep into the tomatoe. I think people in Mexico do this?

Posted by: RGinTN | June 10, 2008 8:13 PM

can you get salmonella form subway meatball sandwish

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2008 10:32 PM

You Say Tomato, You Say Salmonella. It's official: we have a Code Tomato alert. Code Red as opposed to Code Orange.

Thankfully, I don't consume raw tomatoes.
Seriously, thanks for the health advisory.
The FDA rules!

Posted by: Brian Randall | June 10, 2008 11:41 PM

In just the past couple of years: Fresh Spinach, Sprouts, Onions, Tomatoes, Almonds, etc. The makings of great, highly nutritional salads; but the uncontrolled infections of which were also the undoing - of lives, as well as health - for a good number of our fellow Americans.
We're warned about these infections whenever traveling abroad, especially to developing nations. Given just "natural" conditions in growing fields, let alone very poor sanitation/harvesting & processing work conditions, it's a miracle we haven't had even more fresh produce infections crisis. Packaged "Ready-made" salad ingredients are particularly ripe for such infections; their packaging acts like hothouse incubators, for any/all bad pathogens that have gotten on them in the growing/picking process.
So, in response, this part of the produce industry now "protects" our safety by pre-"washing" it in bleach/Chlorine solutions, before packaging! [Yes, they DO then run it through a clear water rinse: But that WON'T remove either the now well known Carcinogen Chlorine, nor any remaining bad bacteria; & even then, only certain types of pathogens are removed in this way!]

There IS a natural MINERAL solution product available, that eradicates ALL known bad plant &/or water-borne pathogen forms; & does so WITHOUT ANY health, taste or other offensive negative side-effects: PLUS,it extends freshness of the produce so bathed in it, by (at least) 3-to-5 Times! But, sad to say, they can't now make it available in this country!
Why?; because it would take years & $Tens of Thousands to get it OK'd by the (Chem industry's personal) Federal control agency.
So much for the sound, objective & very considerate thinking of "protective 'watch-dog'" Agencies.

Posted by: Seamus O'B. | June 11, 2008 8:32 PM

After posting my initial response, I took a few moments to read through more of the others.
This moved me to post this addendum: PLEASE, DON'T BELIEVE BY SIMPLY "WASHING" PRODUCE (EVEN WITH SOAP!) YOU CAN EVEN BEGIN TO ELIMINATE HARMFUL PATHOGENS!
THIS IS THE MOST FOOLISH OF "OLD WIVE'S TALES" POSSIBLE!!
IT REQUIRES VERY SPECIALIZED SOLUTIONS TO ACHIEVE THIS END; THE BAD BACTERIAL, VIRAL & FUNGAL FORM PATHOGENS ARE NOT AT ALL EVEN REDUCED, MUCH LESS ELIMINATED, BY SIMPLISTIC "FOLK LORE" PROCEDURES AS HAVE BEEN EXPRESSED IN SO MANY OF THE OTHER COMMENTS. To learn more/get better informed, go to www.whaintl.com Web Site.
[I offer this info as founder/CEO of a company that specializes in providing Potable Water/Fresh Produce purification & sanitation solutions; to developing nations, worldwide!]

Posted by: Seamus O'B. | June 11, 2008 9:10 PM

where do the stores dump all the salmonella-laced tomatoes? is there one big tomato dumpster somewhere?

Posted by: V8Less | June 11, 2008 10:18 PM

How are the Canadian tomatoes?

Maybe we should all move there.

Posted by: MRod | June 12, 2008 1:42 PM

Maybe the FDA should ammend the warning and direct all obese Americans to eat the contaminated tomatoes.

Nothing takes care of obesity faster than a little food poisoning.

Salmonella = reduced health risks associated with obesity! Win-Win for all!

Posted by: To All | June 12, 2008 4:14 PM

Today the news scare was about lemons. Be careful making fresh squeezed lemonade to beat the heat, my friends. I disagree, of course, that this is a big conspiracy. Calculated and coordinated eugenic experiments are however being conducted on our food. This is not a state secret.

http://www.thefutureoffood.com/trailer.htm

Posted by: Brian Randall | June 12, 2008 8:17 PM

It is a wonder that any of us has survived this long. Since I was a small boy we grew our own vegies in the dirt and that dirt was mixed with the greatest of all natural fertalizers, plain old manure out of the corral. I should be dead by now. I wonder that if in our pristine and sterile society we humans have lost the ability to fight of any of the naturaly occuring "bugs" that exist out there. I for one will continue to "grow my own" in my garden full of cow droppings and I suspect that no harm will befall me from it.

Posted by: M Hansen | June 12, 2008 9:44 PM

it is amazing how silly this tomato thing is. first wash everything before you eat it. second trailors from mexico are NEVER mixed with one commodity (chickens) and another (tomato) this would never pass the usda or fda inspections at the border which ALL produce loads are subject to every day no exceptions. three farmers markets are just as susceptible to have an issue with salmonella as any other market. why? because a worker/sales person/customer can smear whatever is on their hand onto a piece of fruit no matter where you buy it. the truth is tomato's are not inherently unsafe. in fact we americans consume aprox 1 billion survings of tomatoes per day!!! per day!! thats alot of tomatoes 365 days a year. chances are you will get the flu before you get salmonella from tomato eating. WASH YOUR FRUIT..
BTW most ALL vegetable as well as tomato come from mexico this time of year. no one is complaining about them; italian squash, cucumbers, eggplant,green beans,avocados, bell peppers....or did you think these items were being manufactured..
one last point; most of the cases reported all occurred from april 15 thru april 23; MEANING THAT IF IT WAS A TOMATO IT WOULD HAVE HAD TO BEEN IN THE MARKET PLACE AROUND THE FIRST WEEK OR SECOND WEEK OF APRIL! IF IT WAS A TOMATO IT IS BY NOW EITHER TOSSED OUT,POOPED OUT OR ROTTEN! the knee jerk reaction by the fda is like closing the barn door after the horses are long gone...u can check my statements for there truth and judge for yourself...truth is tomatoes are OK TO EAT ...

Posted by: brian | June 13, 2008 3:08 AM

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Posted by: ManyMitypaype | June 14, 2008 3:53 AM

I am putting my cards on Mexico. Anyone care to bet that the infection started in Mexico, which does not have the same standards we do? Look at the outbreaks -- mostly in Southwestern states. Between all the toxic products recently from China and this, maybe Lou Dobbs is right.

Posted by: Justin | June 20, 2008 3:44 PM

Take a look at this story about tainted "bathtub cheese" popular with Mexican immigrants that is making people sick.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24954041/

Yummy.

Posted by: Justin | June 20, 2008 3:48 PM

Basically, these tomates are actually purty safe to eat! just like drown them in vinegar until they are like, idk, soggy? perhaps then you wont see as many dead people lying around. and no you cant get salmonella from eatin a stinkin subway meatball sandwhich. and if you do get salmonella, try not to puke your guts out. its bad enough i had it last year, but geez... tomatoes? what the heck are they trying to go to us innocent peoples!? ?(

Posted by: GrinsAndKisses | June 22, 2008 8:09 PM

And wouldnt us americans be smart enough just to grow our own crops? my dad and my two other siblings are doing just that do to this particllar issue! for our own country's good eh? *goes outside to check on her familys veggies*

Posted by: GrinsAndKisses | June 22, 2008 8:13 PM

Uh, Brian, no one said that anyone was hauling "mixed loads".

All it would take would be for a trailer to haul chicken south into Mexico and then picking up a load of fresh produce to head north. An endless cycle of chicken south, produce north.

I don't think the border checkpoint personnel ever know what was loaded on the trailer before the current bill of lading is issued for the current load.....

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Posted by: ManyMitypaype | June 23, 2008 11:49 PM

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