• Posted by Califia Suntree on June 17th, 2008, 5:30 PM

    This toxic tomato scare seems to be making more of an impact than I thought. I saw two people at lunchtime yesterday fastidiously remove the tomatoes from their sandwiches, which I thought nothing of until two of my friends thought twice about eating a bit of tomato later that evening. I’m always incredibly suspicious of “food scares,” since they are usually the result of the evening news taking a few instances of foodborne illness and turning it into a nationwide panic. (For a little perspective, some 277 people recently got salmonella from tomatoes. According to the CDC, 76 million Americans get some form of food poisoning annually, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die.) The affected folks recover from their food poisoning, and then we are spared the headlines (“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”–groan–like 50 times per Google News) until the next outbreak. Meanwhile, the larger issue remains: our industrialized food-handling system that enables these outbreaks. Rather than sporadic panic, why not a sustained, close examination of how our food gets from farm to table? In a press release in response to the Great Tomato Scare of 2008, Edible Communities co-founder Tracey Ryder points out that “eating from sources close to home is one way to avoid exposure to widespread foodborne illnesses…If there is a problem with a locally grown crop, consumers can trace their food back to its source very quickly.” An excellent point! It’s certainly been a boon to local farmers here in NY, and that’s good news.

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