The previous diaries I found on this did not have the list of approved states from the FDA or much about how salmonella could get in or onto our tomatoes. Will give it a shot, forgive me if this seems redundant.
There were 167 cases of salmonella in 17 states at last count. One dead in Houston, already with cancer, but a celebratory meal of Mexican food didn’t help their cause.
Rivera is thought to be the first person to die in the current outbreak.
Rivera's wife, Barbara, said her husband ate tomatoes during a restaurant meal celebrating good news he had received concerning his cancer treatment. Four other family members who ate tomatoes also became ill.
The FDA is beginning to close in on the culprits who have taken away our tomatoes from the taqueria, but they have already made a list of states and counties in FLA where it is safe to get them.
This paragraph specifically for Texas Kaos, but there are a lot of other states on there too.
Note that Texas is on that list. If you go buy tomatoes from Uncle Joe down at the farmer’s market or on your courthouse square, you are probably safe. That is the upshot of so far.
Buy Local. Support your local farmers.
This is one instance in which rural Texans have it over city people. I can go RIGHT NOW and find homegrown tomatoes. Of which Guy Clark maintains is the only other thing that money can’t buy besides true love. Yes, Mr. Clark I do think My Tomatoes are better than anybody else’s, but I can go get a reasonable facsimile from my local grower/farmer. Those things at the store sometimes taste awful and have the texture of cardboard.
Didja know that the Flavr Savr tomato was the first plant that was genetically modified? Made them easier to ship. They weren’t concerned about Round-up or Bt in them, but a squished tomato does not sell well.
As with any veggie, no matter where you get it, give it a good scrub before you eat it. A vinegar water bath is pretty good for killing off most pathogens and removing chemicals.
If this scare did nothing more than to reinforce the idea that buying close to home is the best option, then I am glad. If it causes the FDA to rethink its inspection process, then that is a good too. God knows thinking in the acronym agencies has been in short supply for the last 8 years. Oversight? That's for wussies.
I am going to make some homemade salsa. I am going to slice up a green one and fry it. I am not going to be afraid of my food. But, I am going to wash it first and I am going to buy them from a local veggie stand. Perhaps the Country of Origin label that was passed in the most recent Farm Bill didn’t go far enough. Maybe I want to know the state and county too. If HEB is buying them by the truckload from California I want to know that. If it is from here in Texas, I want to know that too. They already tell me when they get the Pecos cantaloupes in stock, why not tell me where my tomato came from?
As for how it got in there. Lots of possibilities.
In the eastern United States, tomatoes are grown in natural habitats for many known Salmonella reservoirs, including birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Salmonella infections have been linked to tomatoes since 1990, when S. Javiana caused 176 illnesses in four midwestern states (2). Those tomatoes, and those implicated in a subsequent outbreak in 1993, were traced to a South Carolina packing house. Cross-contamination might have occurred at the packing house, where substantial numbers of tomatoes passed through a common wash tank (2). In 1994 and 1995, a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points program was implemented at this packing house and disseminated to the tomato industry (3). The key critical-control point implemented was maintenance of water quality, specifically monitoring chlorine levels, pH, and water temperature in the wash tank. Of seven subsequent tomato-associated Salmonella outbreaks, six have been traced to other packing houses in the southeastern United States (4,5). Although produce packing houses are specifically exempt from the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), FDA guidance (6) to the produce industry encourages GMP controls for water used in packing houses. However, the extent to which FDA guidance has been adopted by the industry is unknown. Tomato-associated Salmonella outbreaks reported to CDC have increased in frequency and magnitude in recent years and caused 1,616 reported illnesses in nine outbreaks during 1990--2004, representing approximately 60,000 illnesses when accounting for the estimated proportion (97.5%) of unreported illness (7).
Salmonella can enter tomato plants through roots or flowers (8) and can enter the tomato fruit through small cracks in the skin, the stem scar, or the plant itself (9). However, whether Salmonella can travel from roots to the fruit, or if seeds can contaminate subsequent generations of tomato plants, is unknown. Understanding the mechanism of contamination and amplification of contamination of large volumes of tomatoes is critical to prevent large-scale, tomato-associated outbreaks. Contamination might occur during multiple steps from the tomato seed nursery to the final kitchen. Eradication of Salmonella from the interior of the tomato is difficult without cooking, even if treated with highly concentrated chlorine solution (10).
It appears from the fact that they are listing the counties in FLA that are safe that they are looking to that area for the source of the outbreak. If it turns out that bird droppings or lizard poop are responsible for this, is that going to make it less of a problem? I doubt it. There is no correlation between chemical use in the field and salmonella. I want to put that much to bed. Whatever your opinions about the use of chemicals on farms, salmonella is not one of the drawbacks.
Again, the best results of this are a clearer statement of our food origin when we buy it, the encouragement of local growers and better oversight by the FDA.