Yuck! Do you know where your food comes from?Wed, June 18, 2008 - 3:45 PM
Here's a quote from an article in today's US News:
"The FDA is urging consumers nationwide to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that FDA has cleared of suspicion. Check FDA's Web site -- www.fda.gov -- for an updated list. Also safe are grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached."
The list on the FDA website shows tomatoes grown in (currently) 40 states, including CA, are safe. But when's the last time you saw a tomato with a return address on it? The most I ever typically see is a "Grown in the U.S.A. label." That means that all those perfectly good tomatoes now have to sit and rot. Can you imagine how badly this is hurting farmers, especially in this day and age, when gas and fuel prices are at record highs?
This is horrific on so many levels! Nowhere in the news do we hear anyone questioning why Salmonella (a bacterium associated with raw poultry and eggs) is on *tomatoes* in the first place.
The bigger problem of course points to the fact that so many of us have virtually no idea about the life cycle of our food. We eat apples from places we've never traveled to without thinking. Conventional food production and distribution requires a tremendous amount of energy—one study conducted in 2000 estimated that ten percent of the energy used annually in the United States was consumed by the food industry (Heller, Martin C., and Gregory A. Keoleian. Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S. Food System. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, 2000: 42). As a result, the average American foodstuff travels an estimated 1,500 miles before being consumed.
This especially chaps my hide because tomatoes are *in season* now. Everyone who has a yard space or space for a few buckets of soil could grow their own Salmonella-free, organic, local tomatoes. My sister currently has way more than she can eat, beautiful, sweet, and juicy red.
There's no reason that we have to be powerless in our consumption of food. Think before you buy! I guarantee you, those organic tomatoes at the 31 different farmer's markets around town will be Salmonella free, and taste WAY better than the conventional ones picked while they're still green, and shipped around the world.
We live in the state where 90% of the U.S.'s food comes from. Take advantage and shop locally!
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P.S.If you're interested in finding out more about food and its effects on the environment, I *highly* recommend Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."
TOMATO FREEDOM!Well, maybe not more than I can eat-- I can always find a way to eat more tomatoes! But I certainly have a strong feeling of smugness as I contemplate my ripening tomato babies and think about the poor sods who don't know where their food comes from and what sort of fertilizer, amendments, and energy go into growing it. And I will certainly keep buying tomatoes from my local farmer's market.
Article: How do tomatoes get salmonella?www.slate.com/id/2193474/
"How Do Tomatoes Get Salmonella?From poop to produce.
By Ryan Hagen
Posted Friday, June 13, 2008, at 12:12 PM ET
Federal health officials are still trying to pinpoint the source of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes that sickened at least 167 people in 17 states since April and claimed the life of a Texas cancer patient. How can salmonella, a bacterium that normally lives inside animal intestines, get on your tomatoes?
Manure, runoff, and wild animals. Livestock animals, especially when kept in large numbers in confined spaces, can contract salmonella and carry the bug without showing any symptoms at all. Infected cows, pigs, and chickens shed the bacteria in their waste, which is sometimes used to fertilize nearby fields. The heat generated when manure is composted kills off most, but not all, disease-causing bacteria.
Contaminated water supplies can also put salmonella on your tomatoes. Runoff from livestock pastures, or from leaky or overtopped waste lagoons at industrial farming sites, can dirty streams, groundwater, and other bodies of water farmers draw on for irrigation. According to an FDA investigation, that was the likely cause of a 2002 salmonella outbreak in imported Mexican cantaloupes.
Since salmonella can infect anything with an intestinal tract, wild animals can spread the bacteria onto crops through their own droppings or from fecal matter they track in from elsewhere. The 2006 outbreak of E. coli in spinach, for example, was traced to a pack of wandering wild boars. The swine had picked up tainted cow manure on their hooves before breaking through the fence of a nearby spinach field to graze.
Producers do rinse their harvest with chlorinated water to remove most of the harmful bacteria, but enough can be left to make you sick. If the skin of a tomato is punctured when the fruit is picked from the vine or when presliced for sale in a supermarket or restaurant, then bacteria get inside, and no amount of washing will make it safe to eat. This is partly why on-the-vine tomatoes have been exempt from this most recent salmonella scare.
Salmonella and E. coli poisoning used to be primarily associated with the consumption of undercooked meat. But that's changing, as produce-related outbreaks become more common and more widely publicized. In 1999, produce was responsible for 40 separate food poisoning incidents in the United States. In 2004, that number climbed to 86. There have been 13 major outbreaks involving tomatoes alone since 1990.
Why the shift? One factor is a lack of inspections of farms and packing plants by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that more contaminated produce slips into the market undetected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects every meatpacking plant in the country each day, keeping close tabs on safety conditions. By contrast, the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with regulating produce, might inspect a vegetable packing facility once a year, and the number of inspections is shrinking. In 1972, the FDA inspected 50,000 farms and plants. By 2006, that number had dwindled to 10,000. Meanwhile, having increasingly centralized packing plants means that crops from a single contaminated field can mingle with clean produce and be shipped across a wider swath of the country than ever before."
What's distressing about this article is that it seems to be a subtle argument in favor of more inspections by the FDA, rather than CHANGING THE SYSTEM COMPLETELY! Why do we have centralized packing of agricultural products? And why do we not cry out in outrage at the fact that salmonella, which very rarely occurs in livestock living in HEALTHY conditions, seems to now be considered a normal fact of life for those poor chickens and cows? "Oh, it's safe as long as you cook it enough-- but handle with care!" Bullshit! How safe is it for the critter that's been carrying that bacterium in its gut? The system is broken, kids! Time for radical change-- Tomato Anarchy! GROW YOUR OWN!