Red Scare?

Many in the food safety community believe that tomatoes are not responsible for the salmonella outbreak.

Nearly a month after the initial outbreak and the isolated tomatoes have been removed, people are still getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tested 1,700 samples of tomatoes and found zero cases of salmonella. Zilch.

FDA food safety chief Dr. David Acheson said they will now test other produce:

Tomatoes aren’t off the hook. It’s just that there is clearly a need to think beyond tomatoes.

phjoto by Zeetz Jones via Creative CommonsThe recent twist in the story makes this earlier FDA statement that they’ll locate the source “in the next few days” comical.

What’s not funny is that the whole mess has cost the food industry about $100 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. And the warning could mean $250 million in losses for farmers and distributors.

Squandered money and a waste of food.

I’m not saying that the FDA has anything but the best intentions–to protect Americans’ health–nor that their job is easy. But they seemed to act with flimsy evidence. People got sick from eating Mexican food and tomatoes are a common ingredient in many Mexican dishes.

I can see how the FDA’s modus operandi might be justifiable. Yet coming on the heels of the largest ever beef recall that, even at the time, we knew was not about protecting Americans from affected meat, it seems like the FDA has developed a quick trigger finger.

What’s your take? Is this approach justifiable if lives are at stake? (I should add that nobody has died from this salmonella outbreak.)

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