Monday, June 30, 2008


Should I eat that tomato?[b]

Terry Bankert 6/30/08
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** REFLECTIONS: Our government is to protect us through regulation bad food delivered to us through inter state commerce, what happened?.[trb]
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TOMATOES, WILL THEY BE THE DEATH OF US? As salmonella cases continue to climb, the government is investigating whether tainted tomatoes really are to blame for the record outbreak -- or if the problem is with another ingredient or a warehouse that is contaminating newly harvested tomatoes.[f] Tomatoes carrying a rare form of salmonella that has sickened more than 800 people may still be on the market, federal officials said yesterday, two weeks after they first warned consumers about the risk. [w]

OUTBREAK, THATS A SCARY WORD "The facts keep changing here. The outbreak is continuing," Dr. David Acheson, food safety chief at the Food and Drug Administration, said Friday. "We need to reexamine all parts of this system and make sure that the consumer message is still solid."[f]

NATIONWIDE 750-800 PEOPLE SICK At least 17 Massachusetts residents have been sickened by salmonella from raw tomatoes - part of a nationwide outbreak that has struck more than 750 people since April. Salmonella, which comes from animal waste and causes flu-like symptoms, is particularly dangerous for people whose immune systems have already been weakened by age or illness. The Globe's Neil Munshi spoke with Ken Lee, director of the Ohio State University Food Safety Center, about the possible causes of the outbreak, and what consumers should know to eat safely.[b]

SALMONELLA Investigators probing the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak that has sickened at least 810 Americans, including 25 in Maryland, are trying to make sure that tomatoes are the cause, an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.[s]

THE FARMER IN THE DELL, GREW TOMATOES THAT WHEN EATEN SENT US ALL TO... For weeks, the government has focused on tomatoes, and investigators have been visiting farms, warehouses and other stops on the tomato supply chain in search of the source.[s]

EPIDEMIOLOGY? Dr. Patricia Griffin, chief of the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology branch, said tomatoes remain the likeliest cause, but CDC scientists are also checking salsa, guacamole and produce other than tomatoes.[s]

OTHER PRODUCE? Investigators are considering the possibility that other produce may be spreading the bacteria. "We continue to see a strong association with tomatoes, but we are keeping an open mind about other ingredients," said Patricia Griffin, a top epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [w]

WE ARE MAKING OUR LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE The government is double-checking because illnesses, which began on April 10, have kept emerging even though it has been weeks since stores and restaurants removed suspect tomatoes. The latest confirmed case of illness was on June 15.[s]

SNOW BIRD ALERT Investigators have focused their attention on Southern Florida and Mexico, the main suppliers of tomatoes to the United States when the outbreak began in mid-April. [w]

MICROBIOLOGISTS Teams including microbiologists and other experts have spent the past week in both places, scouring farms, packing sheds and warehouses for evidence of the outbreak strain. They have collected more than 1,700 samples from fields, irrigation wells and storage containers, Acheson said, but so far none have tested positive. [w]

OF THE USUAL SUSPECT, VILLIAN NUMBER ONE Tomatoes remain the top suspect, and the advice on which ones consumers should avoid has not changed, Acheson said. But the widening outbreak -- with at least 810 people sickened -- means whatever is making people ill could still be on the market.[f] Red roma, red plum, and round red tomatoes are on the contaminated list, but cherry, grape, and vine-on tomatoes are safe.[b] To be extra cautious, cook all tomatoes. But most grocers have been very responsible in only selling tomatoes that aren't implicated in the outbreak, Lee said. Canned goods and salsa - which is pasteurized - are also safe. The government has narrowed its search for the source of the outbreak to farms in Mexico and Florida, so you're safe if you avoid tomatoes from those areas. The problem is that a single box of tomatoes may contain fruit from many farms in different parts of the country or the world. The US Food and Drug administration, which regulates farms, may consider more clearly marking tomatoes with point-of-origin labels in light of this outbreak, Lee said.[b]

JUST DO NOT GO TO A RESTAURANT OR SUPERMARKET Most worrisome, the latest victim became sick June 15 -- long after the outbreak began April 10 and weeks after government warnings removed many tomatoes from supermarkets and restaurants.[f] Tomatoes On My Windowsill by Robin Benzle Tomatoes on my windowsill, Lined up like happy soldiers, From pale green as 1. key lime pie To red as sunburned shoulders. They seem to smile at the sun, While they patiently a-ripen. And when I do my kitchen chores, I smile back, enlightened. One by one I take them down From their nest upon the sill, And add them to a salad or Perhaps a sauce with dill. Then to my garden I return To pluck another load, And tenderly I line them up On that shelf in my abode. No sooner do I get them shelved, Than my garden calls me back. They're ripening all at once, I think, As I stuff them in my sack. So I give them to my neighbors and I give them to my friends. I give them to my enemies, Just to make amends. Soon, I note they're turning red So fast it makes me ill. From off the vine, they drop like flies. My plot looks like road kill. Tomatoes on my windowsill All rotting in a row. I never thought I'd say this but, "Where the hell's the snow?" [t]

SOURCE "The source of contamination has been ongoing at least through early June, and we don't have any evidence that whatever the source is, it's been removed from the market," said Dr. Patricia Griffin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[f] Q: How did the tomatoes become tainted? A: Tomatoes are warm when they come off the vine, having been heated by the sun, and are cooled once they are picked, causing them to contract. This contraction, Lee said, may effectively suck all the bacteria and dirt on the surface of the tomato inside, through the stem and button areas. Scarred or bruised tomatoes should be avoided, as those are extra access points for the bacteria. Lee said studies have dismissed the idea that the bacteria could have traveled up into the plant through the roots.[b] It's not clear why the outbreak occurred now.[b] Acheson said the investigation has proved especially difficult because of the timing of the outbreak and a common industry practice called repacking. The illnesses began just as the main source of tomatoes shifted from Mexico to Florida. [w] After they are picked, tomatoes are often repacked to meet the customer specifications. In the process, tomatoes from many farms are combined, making it harder to trace a shipment to a particular restaurant, for example, back to where it was grown. [w]

AVOID RED OR BE DEAD? The FDA urges people to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in states or countries that the FDA has cleared of suspicion.[f] We have to re-examine the whole thing," David Acheson, a top food safety official with the Food and Drug Administration said. "We are concerned there is something out there still exposing people to this salmonella saintpaul strain." [w]

Posted here by Terry Bankert ...
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[s] Baltimore Sun,0,6338549.story
[trb] Comments of Terry Bankert to include CAP headlines
[t] Tomato Poem
[w] Washington Post

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