What’s up with those tomatoes?

You’ve probably heard the news by now: tomatoes are making people sick. Over 160 cases of salmonella poisoning in 14 states may be linked to contaminated ‘maters. Cherry and grape tomatoes and the ones on the vine are likely safe, and of course the ones from your farmers’ market or greenhouse are, too. But beware the others (I’m guessing this means the convenient mid-sized Romas and those beefsteak slicing tomatoes for your weekend barbecue), lest you join the queasy group or the two dozen people who’ve been hospitalized.

From what I’m hearing and reading, the problem came from the handling of these tomatoes. Salmonella comes from people who have eaten food contaminated with animal feces (ick, I know) or who came in contact with the feces and still have traces on their hands. Even thorough washing may not take care of the problem, as the bacteria are pretty tenacious and could have gotten into the tomato flesh.

Consumers are in a tizzy, a la the Great Spinach Scare of ’06. Fast food joints are pulling fresh tomatoes from their offerings, making a stop at McD’s and BK’s even less healthy. And tomato farmers have quite a problem on their hands, as the demand for their product has come to a halt and they are nursing their whiplash and leaving fruits rotting on the vine.

Could you give me a hand while I step up on the soap box for a minute? Hrumph and…. here I am!

Ok, so I’d like to point out that two practices are implicated in the problem itself and the fact that it’s spread across the country: industrial farming and non-local sourcing. Perhaps there’s even a third: poor labor practices. Hell, let’s pile on monoculture while we’re at it. Solve these, and we’ll stop turning one of summer’s sweetest treasures into a mine field.

Don’t forget to comment!

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2 thoughts on “What’s up with those tomatoes?

  1. Rhea, I love the soapbox lecture! Stay up there as long as you like! Yeah, we’ve got major problems with the industrial agriculture system. One of these days maybe we’ll wise up and start to see all the connections. Actually, I think lots of people have awoken, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do…

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