About a week ago the story broke in Texas that around 20 Texans (40 people nationwide) had gotten salmonella. The source of the salmonella outbreak had been linked by the center for disease control to raw large and raw roma tomatoes.

Within about 2 days most of the large chain restaurants in my area had stopped serving fresh tomatoes. This included Olive Garden, Chillis, Mcdonalds, Subway, and even Burger King. Several large grocery stores also pulled fresh tomatoes off of their shelves including Wal-Mart, and Whole foods, and everybody was telling everybody else about how you really shouldn't eat raw tomatoes.

I on the other hand have found myself a lone voice in trying to convince friends and coworkers that 40 cases of salmonella poisoning (or 400 or even 4000 cases) out of millions and millions of pounds of fresh tomatoes that would have been served during the affected period (April 24th - May 27th) is not statistically significant, and is also two weeks past relevance.

As of yesterday the Subways in my area had started serving them again on account of the fact that all of their tomatoes came from inside Texas, and Texas tomatoes were ruled out as the source of the salmonella over a week ago (or to be more specific several days before everyone started freaking out).

Meanwhile CNN who was reporting 38 cases nationwide a week ago, was suddenly reporting that number as "under 200" reported salmonella cases as of yesterday with "no new cases having been reported in the past 2 weeks." This came mysteriously on the heels of another story about how no one pulled their tomatoes during the 2006 salmonella-tomato outbreak inspite of the fact that there were 183 reported cases and more states affected.

Theories abound in our local Austin papers about why so many people and business are reacting differently this time. Most of these theories point to the idea of "greater consumer concern" and a "stronger sense of responsibility" among food vendors. Having heard nothing of the 2006 salmonella outbreak until yesterday I have my own theory. I suspect when the story broke in 2006 it didn't happen to be a slow news day.

Still I am amazed at how many times I have heard people get upset in the last few days with the few restaurants still serving tomatoes. A local radio show I was listening to the other day went off on a tirade about how irresponsible it was for any restaurant to serve them, and a woman in front of me in line at the Potato Club was going off on the owner of said business about how dangerous it was to serve them to anyone. My unshared thought towards this concerned consumer was "I am pregnant and I want my very safe, low-risk, fresh tomatoes ::insert expletive name-calling here::."

My husband tried to inform the distraught lady that it took all of 15 seconds at 145 degrees to kill salmonella (which in case your curious is approximately the temperature of the inside of my car when not air conditioned these days), not to mention the fact that her chances of catching it are 1 in many millions and probably less than that since the outbreak subsided before the story broke.

For those of you still concerned, the next time you go out to eat contemplate this: what do you think the chances are of the person behind the counter/grill making a random mistake or oversight that causes you to get sick... like forgetting to wash hands after handling raw meat, using the wrong knife, leaving the tartar sauce out too long, coming to work sick, etc.?

I suspect that unless you are an extremely paranoid individual this threat does not generally keep you from eating the food. Yet 40 people catching a not very serious illness out of the millions of pounds of tomatoes served in this country in a month gives you pause... Why?

Share this



Because the media told us so, that's why!

I'll take any excuse I can

I'll take any excuse I can get not to eat tomatoes.

There is a Taco Bell near my

There is a Taco Bell near my work (St. Paul is on the unhip side of the Mississippi so there isn't much open really late at night), that I had stopped going to, because they couldn't not put tomatoes on my stuff even when I'd have them repeat to me that I wanted them to hold the tomatoes. But I've been cramming my face with their crap ever since all the chain restaurants pulled tomatoes off their menus.

Paranoia is great.


Raw tomatoes make me gag. It's hard for me to choke them down. I used to think that my peculiar dislike of raw tomatoes (I like ketchup, marinara sauce, etc.) was idiosyncratic, but over my life I've encountered so many people with the same reaction (scattered through a much larger population which seems to relish them), that I have wondered for a while whether tomatoes are like cilantro in that there is (believed to be) a genetic predisposition among some but not all people to dislike cilantro.

Ordinarily (aside from tomatoes) if some people dislike some particular food or kind of food which other people love, it's easy to trace it back to their background, to the foods they were exposed to in their youth. For example people who grew up far from oceans often have a lot of trouble appreciating sea food. But I haven't been able to discover any cultural or regional common ground among tomato haters.

You say TomAHToe I Say ToMayTow

I agree the chances are minimal for salmonella.....and all you Tomato haters..that leaves more for those of us who have taste and an adult sense of appetite you boring wussies!

Tomatoes are innocent?

Apparently, it was a bum rap.

Damn and I planted 50 tomato plants

I thought I had accidentally cornered the market when I heard about the tomato scare and I had just put in a new garden with 50 tomato plants. Just ate my first ripe tomato yesterday and they are chest high. Which is pretty good for Long Island this time of year.