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FDA declares it’s OK to eat tomatoes


July 18, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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tomato02July 18, 2008, Washington, D.C. – The big dark cloud no longer hangs over that summertime favourite – the tomato. The U.S. government recently gave the all-clear to eat all varieties of
tomatoes again, lifting its salmonella warning amid signs that the
record outbreak, while not over, may finally be slowing.

July 18, 2008, Washington, D.C. – The big dark cloud no longer hangs over that summertime favourite – the tomato.

tomato02The U.S. government recently gave the all-clear to eat all varieties of tomatoes again, lifting its salmonella warning amid signs that the record outbreak, while not over, may finally be slowing.

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That's not to say that tomatoes weren’t responsible in the first place – ones harvested earlier may have been, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Hot peppers now are the probe's main focus.

Federal health officials reiterated that the people most at risk of salmonella, including the elderly and anyone with weak immune systems, should avoid fresh jalapenos and serranos, and dishes that may contain them, such as fresh salsas.

Investigators still don’t know what caused the salmonella outbreak, which now has sickened 1,220 people in 42 states – the earliest falling ill on April 10 and the latest so far on July 4.

In all, five Canadians were sickened, four of who had recently visited the U.S.

The FDA’s move comes as the tomato industry estimates its losses at more than $100 million.

Inspectors have yet to find the outbreak strain on any farms, in suspect areas of south Florida and parts of Mexico, where they’ve managed to trace tomatoes that were thought to have been eaten by patients.

Also still on the suspect list is fresh cilantro.

Now the puzzle is how multiple types of produce could be contaminated with what is a rare type of salmonella.

One possibility is that a large farm grew tomatoes in one section and peppers in another, and both went through a common washing station with contaminated water.

The tomato industry welcomed the FDA’s announcement.

“We have long been confident that Florida’s tomatoes were not associated with the salmonella Saintpaul outbreak,” said the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

“Tomatoes from Florida’s growing regions have been gone from the marketplace for weeks, so they could not have been the source of the contamination.”