Tuesday, June 10, 2008

US Food Supply Compromised - Tomatoes & Salmonella

Earlier today, as I pondered my choices for lunch, I decided to roll through the Wendy's drive-thru for a chicken club sandwich (hold the mustard) and a bottle of water. I rolled up to the first window to pay for my order and took a passing glance at a memo about tomatoes and sandwiches. Didn't think much of it until I got my food and started to chow down on my lunch... there wasn't the wobbly slice of tomato that I usually pull out and discard in the bag with the french fries.

WTF!... where is the friggin' tomato?!?

I ambled home and dove headlong into Google. What was going on with the tomatoes? To my surprise, the FDA and CDC have confirmed that an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning first linked to uncooked tomatoes has now been reported in nine states. Lab tests have confirmed 40 illnesses in Texas and New Mexico as the same type of salmonella, right down to the genetic fingerprint.

An investigation by Texas and New Mexico health authorities and the Indian Health Service tied those cases to uncooked, raw, large tomatoes. At least 17 people in Texas and New Mexico have been hospitalized, none have died. In Texas and New Mexico, raw large tomatoes — including Roma and red round tomatoes — were found to be a common factor in the 40 illnesses.

Well, today, not only Wendy's, but McDonald's and just about every fast food joint worth its salt has stopped serving sliced tomatoes on all of its sandwiches in the US until the source of the salmonella has been identified.

The FDA has broadened its list of tomatoes to avoid because of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 145 people in 16 states since the middle of April.

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Serious and potentially fatal cases are more likely in young children, frail or elderly people, and people with weak immune systems.

Read the WebMD article on the CDC ban on tomatoes here.

Read the Yahoo article on salmonella tainted tomatoes here.

Read the New York Times article on McDonald's tomato ban here.

plez sez: when i was a mere toddler, no more than two years old, i would frolic in our family garden, chasing our pet rabbits and occasionally settling down with a ripe red tomato plucked from the vine. of course, i don't remember doing it, but there are a number of pictures in the family photo album documenting such activity.

i guess i should clarify the fact that i don't always throw out the tomatoes from my sandwiches, just the wobbly and soggy ones that taste slimy in my mouth. UGH! in the coming weeks, i will more than likely start to miss the "half fruit/half vegetable" in my submarine sandwich (does anyone call it a wedge?) or as an addition to my wendy's burger. makes me wonder what the heck is going on with our food supply.

salmonella is a bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or other animals. and that is the weird thing, i've always associated this type of outbreak with meat products (stuff from animals). i'm wondering how this animal germ is making its way into vegetables and fruits (in the last two years, there have been salmonella outbreaks in raw spinach and lettuce).

i once got food poisoning (salmonella) from some undercooked chicken. the symptoms are horrendous and i don't wish food poisoning on my worst enemy. now these germs have been introduced to the types of foods that are not normally cooked which means hundreds or thousands of people can get sick before anyone recognizes the trend or the cause. this makes one wary about eating raw salads these days (even though the cdc says that the raw cherry tomatoes are safe)... go figure.


Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

get a farm
grow you on food don’t grow in kroger

Anali said...

I guess for now it might be safer to have cooked vegetables. Although I just realized that I've been eating a macaroni salad with raw zucchini in it. Oh well... So far, so goood.

Lola Gets said...

Reports have shown that in restaurants, food that isnt cooked (tomatoes, lemon wedges, lettuce, etc) have a higher probability for transmitting salmonella than foods that are cooked. Think about it: its sitting around, raw, crap might fall on it and not get washed out! Eh, well, its a gamble one takes if one wants to eat health-ier, hehe.

Ive had salmonella from undercooked chicken, too. Not fun at all.


Hathor said...

The problem is that we aren't like the Europeans and require certain food safety. one of the first outbreaks with e-coli on fruit; it was found that it was washed with untreated water.

I had heard about the connection, but I bought tomatoes without it crossing my mind. So far, have had no problems.