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Tomatoes and Salmonella


weinoo
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Having just finished a cup of gazpacho, I'm hoping that the place where I ordered dinner from last night is only using canned tomatoes, as this latest food threat to consumers rears it's ugly head.

From spinach to cantaloupe, and beef to tomatoes, it seems like our food supply is under attack. And this latest outbreak appears to be systemic, as opposed to a problem that can simply be washed away.

So, should I be worried? And, has everyone given up eating tomatoes, at least until locally grown, in-season tomatoes are available?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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As always I wonder how much of this is about better reporting and communications. Maybe many of these problems have always been there and we just didn't know about it.

All I've got to say to the present problem is - it better fix itself before Caprese Salad season gets here or I'll be very grumpy. That's my only delight during hot summers in the desert.

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so far, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine and homegrown are still in the clear (according to the cdc). i had a caprese with both vined toms and pretty little "heirloom" cherries. tomato goodness.

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I thought these salmonella outbreaks were only in New Mexico and Texas. I was concerned because we are in Louisiana, but an article in our local paper this morning says that the cdc has put Louisiana tomatoes on it's ok list. Unless there is an outbreak in the Northeast, I wouldn't worry about it.

the local Albertson's only carried cherry tomatoes and 'on the vine' this week. I hope they begin carrying the local ones soon, although I can get them at the farmers market, I sometimes need them midweek.

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Canadian tomatoes are apparantly safe to eat...so far. Article here. Some Canadian fast food outlets have also taken tomatoes off their menu, but it's not nation-wide yet. Tomato sandwiches this summer aren't a lost cause yet, hopefully!

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Canadian tomatoes are apparantly safe to eat...so far.  Article here.  Some Canadian fast food outlets have also taken tomatoes off their menu, but it's not nation-wide yet.  Tomato sandwiches this summer aren't a lost cause yet, hopefully!

There's actually a whole list put out by the CDC (check out the full press release here) of places of origin that should be safe. I'm playing it safer and sticking to grape and cherry tomatoes for my lunchtime salad.

Here's the list of "safe" places of origin:

Alabama

Arkansas

California

Georgia

Hawaii

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Minnesota

Mississippi

New York

Nebraska

North Carolina

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

West Virginia

Belgium

Canada

Dominican Republic

Guatemala

Israel

Netherlands

Puerto Rico

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Here's the list of "safe" places of origin:
Alabama

Arkansas

California

Georgia

Hawaii

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Minnesota

Mississippi

New York

Nebraska

North Carolina

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

West Virginia

Belgium

Canada

Dominican Republic

Guatemala

Israel

Netherlands

Puerto Rico

Wow, who would have thought we get tomatoes from places like Belgium and Minnesota?

While this is a great list to have, how often does your local market advertise Alabama grown beefsteaks?

And, since Florida and Mexico aren't on the list of safe places, and they're probably two of the major tomato growing regions where we do get tomatoes from, that makes it even more worrisome for us here in the northeast, at this time of year.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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After a couple of weeks of this problem being present I highly doubt that any grocery store would stock tomatoes grown from unsafe states/growers/distributors/etc. Specially with the hightened scrutiny and the possiblity of law suits if they stocked dem tainted tow maters. It's mass hysteria at it's best.

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After a couple of weeks of this problem being present I highly doubt that any grocery store would stock tomatoes grown from unsafe states/growers/distributors/etc.  Specially with the hightened scrutiny and the possiblity of law suits if they stocked dem tainted tow maters.  It's mass hysteria at it's best.

First of all, you've never shopped in my local grocery store - and you should be thankful you haven't :shock: . And, the FDA just issued its warning this past Saturday...from the Hartford Courant:

The FDA issued a warning to consumers nationwide on Saturday, urging them not to eat certain types of raw red tomatoes. The FDA singled out what it termed red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes, as well as products made from raw tomatoes, such as fresh salsa.

Certain other types of tomatoes — grape, cherry and tomatoes sold still attached to the vine — were deemed safe by the FDA Monday, along with all tomatoes from certain states and countries.

Tainted tomatoes have caused illness in 16 states. Among those believed to be affected was an unidentified Fairfield County resident in Connecticut who has since recovered,

With the tomatoes having caused illnesses in 16 states, I don't think you can realistically call that "mass hysteria."

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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OMG, a Fairfiled County resident got sick? He must've have been the lone eater of tomatoes in the whole state of Connecticut. Thank goodness he's recovered now. (just poking fun)

First of all, this HAS been going on for much longer than 3 days. According to Fox News...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that since mid-April, 145 people infected with salmonella with the same "genetic fingerprint" have been identified. At least 23 people have been hospitalized.

Secondly, out of the BILLIONS of people that have likely eatin tomatoes over the last month or so only 168 people have been infected (1 in Connecticut) according to the CDC. I call that mass hysteria if an entire country stops serving tomatoes or stops stocking them. I for one did not stop eating them despite the fact that I was one of the few that got salmonella poisoning from the big spinach scare of 2006 here in San Diego**. Did the entire country pull baby spinach from the shelves? Did the entire country's restaurants pull baby spinach off their menu's? No and no.

Thirdly, I've eatin food from Tijuana street vendors as well as allyway taco shops that would make most people sick just looking at it. I've also bought locally grown food from small Mexican grocery stores that make you wonder where the meat came from. A few people getting sick here and there in the entire U.S. of A. is not going to stop me. Chances are your favorite grocery store wouldn't stop me either.

Fourthly, I think 25 years ago people/grocery stores/restaurants in San Diego for example would not be concerned for their health if there was an outbreak in Kentucky for example. Today, people are so paranoid about every single little thing that happens. A kids baloon pops somewhere and people run for cover. A few hundred people out of billions nationwide get sick off a sandwich with tomatoes in it and Wallmart, Target, McD's and far too many others I care to list pull from shelves and stop serving tomatoes. Good grief. This is why I say it's mass hysteria.

**It took about a week but I'm fully recovered now. :biggrin:

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My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Florida is not one of the states where anyone got sick yet it's not on the safe list. Why? What is the common thread that would cause the same illness in 16 states? How are tomatoes grown that would introduce salmonella? Inquring minds want to know.

It was a shame to see the grocery stores throw all those tomatoes away. Wouldn't salmonella be killed by the long heating needed to turn those into a nice cooked sauce?

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The CDC's Morbity and Mortality Weekly report Sept 7. 2007 reported specifically on 4 multistate salmonella outbreads in 2005-6. There have been at least 12 of these outbreaks since 1990. They estimate apporximately 80,000 illnesses attributable to this problem during this period. When you consider that approximately 5 billion lbs. of fresh tomatoes are consumed annually in the U.S., the chances of getting salmonella are small. Never the less, the regularity of this association of disease and tomatoes is disconcerting. There is something about the way we produce and handle tomatoes that is bringing salmonella into our lives.

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This is a timely topic, because I'm suffering from bad food poisoning right now and it could very well have come from tomatoes. I washed them very carefully, and they were from CA (I think) but something certainly made me ill. The problem is, I eat so many fruits and veggies I don't know what it was. In the past few days I've had tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries and blueberries from Costco, tomatoes from Walmart and the local farm market, and asparagus from a student of my husband's. I have no idea what might have been the cause.

I haven't seen the doctor yet so I don't know if it's salmonella or regular food poisoning, but it's pretty bad.

I hate that we have to worry so much about the foods that should be best for us.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, boston.com reports that Masachusetts cases have recently added to the outbreak of salmonella.

The Department of Public Health said it had used DNA matching techniques to determine that the Massachusetts cases were linked to the broader outbreak. More than 500 cases have been reported nationally. New York and New Hamsphire officials have also reported cases in recent days.

I just heard on the news this morning that this is the worst outbreak of salmonella since the CDC started keeping records about it. I'm wondering if this can still be considered

mass hysteria
as posited above? And I know how many millions of pounds of tomatoes we consume - a vast majority, no doubt, canned in sauces, soups, purees, diced, strained, ketchup, salsa, etc., none of which are candidates for this problem.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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When you consider that approximately 5 billion lbs. of fresh tomatoes are consumed annually in the U.S., the chances of getting salmonella are small.

Can you tell us where you get this information? Maybe my math isn't so good, but I think this means that every single person in the US eats approximately 16 pounds of fresh tomatoes annually (assuming 300 million people).

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Yep, mass hysteria.

Well, that might be your pronouncement, but when hundreds of people all over the country are getting sick, from one food product, matched by DNA, I think it's a good idea that we find out where the culprit is from.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Mass hysteria, to me, means "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" type stuff - people running, screaming, out of town now.

What seems to be happening with the tomato issue, is people getting sick all over the country from salmonella, from fresh tomatoes from somewhere, and trying to find out where the hell the tomatoes are from before lots more people get sick from them.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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This most certainly has to be a handling and distribution issue.

How to avoid poisoning yourself

A sharp contrast is that tomatoes sold on the market with the vine attached have never been implicated in any outbreak at least in the past decade as far as the writer knows.

This suggests that the ways tomatoes of these two types are grown and handled are definitely different.  When you shop, you may often notice that big red round tomatoes and Roma tomatoes are more likely than tomatoes with vines attached to get bruised or damaged. 

Tomatoes with the skin damaged are more likely to get contaminated with all types of bacteria including salmonella.  That is why the FDA warns consumers not to buy tomatoes bruised or with their skin damaged.

I prefer to pull them off the vine myself in my own yard, and have actually gotten so spoiled that I don't buy them anymore, but I understand that is not possible for everyone.

I do think that this has been a bit overblown, and the waste is disturbing. I wouldn't wish salmonella on my worst enemy, and feel for those that have contracted it. But, only 500 people nationwide have become ill, and as far as I know no one has died. It's not like the e-coli issues we've recently seen.

You guys in the Northeast only have like, what?, four to six weeks before season is in? I know it seems like an eternity when you haven't had a tomato fix for a while.

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When you consider that approximately 5 billion lbs. of fresh tomatoes are consumed annually in the U.S., the chances of getting salmonella are small.

Can you tell us where you get this information? Maybe my math isn't so good, but I think this means that every single person in the US eats approximately 16 pounds of fresh tomatoes annually (assuming 300 million people).

I found that information in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept 7 2007. Checking with the USDA, the number as of 2000 was approximately 18 lbs. per person per year, but I think that includes all tomato products.

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When you consider that approximately 5 billion lbs. of fresh tomatoes are consumed annually in the U.S., the chances of getting salmonella are small.

Can you tell us where you get this information? Maybe my math isn't so good, but I think this means that every single person in the US eats approximately 16 pounds of fresh tomatoes annually (assuming 300 million people).

I found that information in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept 7 2007. Checking with the USDA, the number as of 2000 was approximately 18 lbs. per person per year, but I think that includes all tomato products.

That would make a lot more sense with that number.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Well, well. It turns out that it probably isn't the tomatoes after all:

US Officials Stymied

With the number of people sickened in the nationwide salmonella outbreak now standing at 869, with 107 hospitalizations, U.S. officials acknowledged Tuesday that they were no closer to identifying the source of the contaminant.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also announced it was expanding its investigation to include food items normally served with tomatoes. While tomatoes are still the leading suspected source of the bacterial infections in the two-month-old outbreak, officials said they can't rule out other food items associated with tomatoes. But, they declined to say what those other foods might be.

My money is on the cilantro, just thinking about the handling and sourcing. Also, people are more prone to thoroughly wash tomatoes, as opposed to things like herbs and other leafy greens.

Maybe we should start a pool?

When I think about all the wasted tomatoes this thing caused, it bothers me. Not to mention the innocent farmers with crops rotting in the field.

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Just about every tomato we get in Texas is from Mexico. I haven't bought a fresh tomato since this outbreak hit the news. We have a lot more cases than any other state.

I haven't been shopping this week, but a friend told me today she was in Kroger yesterday and tomatoes were $5.99 a pound. She said she almost fell over.

Last week at HEB the tomato bins were full and many were going bad. The bad ones apparently weren't even being removed by the produce dept. employees.

It's clear people aren't buying them. At least not here.

The FDA needs to get moving.

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