National Tomato Recall

If you haven’t already heard, there’s yet another produce recall. This time it is the ubiquitous tomato which is being pulled off of shelves and menus across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration is expanding its warning to consumers nationwide that a salmonellosis outbreak has been linked to consumption of certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes.

FDA recommends that consumers not eat raw red Roma, raw red plum, raw red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the sources listed below. If unsure of where tomatoes are grown or harvested, consumers are encouraged to contact the store where the tomato purchase was made. Consumers should continue to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, or tomatoes grown at home.

On June 5, using traceback and other distribution pattern information, FDA published a list of states, territories, and countries where tomatoes are grown and harvested which have not been associated with this outbreak. This updated list includes: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico. The list is available at http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html#retailers. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

As you can see from the above list, the source of the outbreak is yet to be communicated to the public at large.

Here at home, the Seattle P-I covered the topic, and came up with this quote:

“Nobody has ever seen a recall like this,” said Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president for food safety and quality assurance. “We were lucky at Costco. It worked out that everything we were selling came from states that were considered safe.”

Actually, Mr. Wilson, we have seen a recall like this. Remember last year’s spinach recall?

Let me be perfectly clear here. Each recall that occurs on a national scale, whether it’s spinach, tomatoes, or peanut butter, is a failure of our food agencies. Whether it’s due to lack of oversight, or indifferent oversight, it matters not. They have failed to do their job.

And while the hospitalizations of consumers is tragic, statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that either you or I will come down with salmonella from a tomato. The real failure of the FDA is to protect the companies who actually do diligent work to prevent such outbreaks. The FDA either will not or cannot tell us where the source of the outbreaks, and as such, every producer will suffer some level of financial repercussions, likely on a very large scale. Lost revenues mean lost jobs.

Just ask the Spinach growers in New Jersey who collectively lost millions of dollars due to the outbreak caused by a farm somewhere in Salinas, California.

h/t to Jack at Fork & Bottle