Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FDA 1, Tomato Farmers 0

In the past few weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning blaming various types of tomatoes, which have allegedly caused approximately 990 illnesses and 1 death. As of now, the FDA has not found one tomato culprit. Yet their warning has caused a drastic loss to the tomato farming industry.

Have you been to a restaurant lately and tried to get tomatoes as a part of your meal? Some eateries simply won't provide you tomatoes. Others say that you must ask for them specifically. It's because the media-abetted FDA is trying, with an unproven theory, to scare the crap out of everyone.

This was the original warning given out by the FDA to Americans everywhere:
FDA has issued a warning to consumers nationwide that an outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, an uncommon type of Salmonella, has been linked to consumption of some raw red plum, red Roma, round red tomatoes, and products containing these raw tomatoes.
We're all going to die!! (The one guy who did die?--he was suffering from cancer.)

Having not found any specific batches of tomatoes that contained salmonella, the FDA has now broadened its brush to further damage the vegetable industry.
...in recent days [FDA officials have] also expanded their focus to other salad bowl constituents - cilantro, jalapeño peppers, serrano peppers, scallions and bulb onions.
Ellen Goodman, an expert in produce, including the routes that various kinds of produce take to get to market, is surprised at the FDA's reaction.
Goodman disagrees that tomatoes ever were involved in the outbreak, based on growers' assurances and the government's inability to find a single tainted tomato. "I know it's not tomatoes because the evidence just isn't there," said Goodman, who supplies tomatoes and other fresh produce to small supermarkets, diners and vegetable vendors on Long Island and elsewhere in the tri-state.
Meanwhile, the tomato industry is on its heels.
Losses in the tomato industry have been considerable. Goodman has not yet estimated her own. Some industry assessments have been as high as $250 million. Goodman said tons of unaffected tomatoes were trashed as people panicked.
How scared were the real experts in produce? Not much.
In June, [Goodman] donated tomatoes to charities. "We gave some of them to the homeless."
This is an interesting statistic from the Centers for Disease Control:

How common is salmonellosis?

In 2004, CDC estimated that there are about 1.4 million illnesses, 15,000 hospitalizations, and 400 deaths from Salmonella infection in the United States every year. Approximately 40,000 of those infections are confirmed each year by isolation of the Salmonella strain. Salmonellosis is more common in summer than in winter.

Admittedly, the St. Paul strain is rare, but why is the FDA freaking out because we've had 1,000 salmonella-related illnesses in three months?

There has got to be a better way of inspecting produce so that we can determine the source of such illnesses with something other than a shotgun approach. And there has got to be a more rational way of reporting such problems than to cause a near-economic catastrophe. The Establishment is doing a good enough job of that already.




5 comments:

  1. This is an excellent example of people doing what others tell them to. I know tons of people who threw away all of their tomatoes out of fear that they could become sick.

    If I've learned anything in the past few years, it's that the best course of conduct is to first distrust the government regarding whatever it says (the ol' "innocent until proven guilty" methodology). If they can prove their case, great. But using fear to cripple an entire industry is reckless behavior that further shows government's ineptness.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mmmmm ... I had some great tomatoes over the weekend. I totally ignored the warnings. I didn't get sick, and neither did anyone else. This is a case of safety Nazis trying to look like they're earning their keep.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The apparently poor handling by the FDA of this issue may, like the Melamine contamination issue last year, may well be a result of the conservative agenda over the last few decades.

    Conservative dogma insists that “big government” is intrusive and innately ineffective. It has thus been a key point of the conservative agenda since they rose to power with the Reagan administration to reduce the power of “big government.” The easiest way to do this? Starve it to death, via the purse.

    After almost three decades of consistent funding strangulation (both legislative and executive), federal agencies such as the FDA are now hopelessly incapable of handling the issues they face. A warped, self-fulfilling prophecy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I haven't been paying much attention the the news lately, so I was shocked when I tried to order a pizza last week and was told I couldn't have tomatoes.

    I was bummed, but figured I'd slice up what I had at home to put on top.

    No one got sick.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Also, all the more reason for growing your own.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting. If you have a Google/Blogger account, to be apprised of ongoing comment activity on this article, please click the "Subscribe" link below.