You say “tomato”—I say “salmonella”

Salmonella is usually viewed as a problem in meat, particularly chicken. But last year, there was the lettuce salmonella and E. Coli scare, involving bagged lettuce. And this year, it’s tomatoes and salmonella.

Yep, just as it’s getting to be prime tomato season, they’re being yanked from supermarket shelves. Fast food chains from McDonald’s to Chipotle have also pulled them from their menus. About 150 people in nine states have been sickened by salmonella-tainted tomatoes, and at least one death has been linked to the outbreak.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Salmonella is characterized by diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that occur within 12 to 72 hours of infection … While most people do not need treatment, the disease can be dangerous to infants, elderly people and those with impaired immune systems.”

Large tomatoes, including Roma and round red, are suspected of carrying the strain Salmonella sereotype Saintpaul. Red plum tomatoes also may be affected.

So what tomatoes are safe to eat? First and foremost, homegrown tomatoes. Smaller tomatoes, such as cherry and grape tomatoes are also safe. But if you crave big tomato taste, go for tomatoes sold on the vine. As I’ve written before, the vine continues to supply nutrients to the tomatoes in the store, making them more flavorful. I suspect that the vines themselves don’t protect the tomatoes from salmonella; I’m guessing it’s more the growing and processing conditions.

So enjoy your tomatoes this season, but just shop carefully. And as always, wash your produce before eating it.

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7 Responses to “You say “tomato”—I say “salmonella””

  1. Melinda Says:

    I usually am up on all these things, but I haven’t heard about this. Very interesting. Is this also a European thing?…asking as I am in UK.
    There was a very serious outbreak of Ecoli in Germany in a preschool group who used their home grown parsley in sandwiches.( Has to be over 10 years ago. ) The contamination source turned out to pig manure. Not good. Those children were extremely ill.
    Thanks for the early warning.

  2. Terry B Says:

    Melinda—This seems to be confined to the U.S. at this point and probably will stay that way. I’ve even seen reports that the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] is saying tomatoes grown in Florida and California are once again safe to eat, but I’m waiting for further confirmation before posting an update.

  3. Melinda Says:

    Thanks again, Terry.

  4. To grill or not to grill: Rosemary Pork Chops « Blue Kitchen Says:

    […] You say “tomato”—I say “salmonella.” Find out what tomatoes are safe to eat in this recent salmonella outbreak, at WTF? Random food for thought. […]

  5. Shauna Says:

    I was thinking the vine left on doesn’t allow the salmonella enter into the tomato thruough the stump, so to speak. Or, bellybutton-comparable thing a ma bob.

  6. Terry B Says:

    And actually, the FDA isn’t even sure tomatoes are the source of the salmonella outbreak now.

  7. To grill or not to grill: Rosemary Pork Chops — Blue Kitchen Says:

    […] You say “tomato”—I say “salmonella.” Find out what tomatoes are safe to eat in this recent salmonella outbreak, at WTF? Random food for thought. […]

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