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Tomato Growers Seek Payback For Salmonella

Rotten Tomato Call Spoils the Bunch? Growers Want Payback

Tomatoes took the rap for the recent Salmonella outbreak for weeks — and now that it looks like it's been traced to the spicier serrano pepper (linked to 1,300 infections in 43 states), tomato growers are understandably hot under the collar. Since the FDA announced that certain tomatoes shouldn't be eaten, the advisory that lasted from June 7 to July 17 cost growers $100 million.

Growers say the advisory came without consulting them, and that the investigation was conducted poorly (indeed, batteries of tests didn't find a single domestic tomato with the bacteria). Now, the FDA associate commissioner for foods has said that tomatoes are safe to eat, while being careful to say no mistakes were made — even though most leads reported to the Department of Health and Human Services overwhelmingly showed that sick folks had eaten salsa at Mexican restaurants.

One Florida Democrat has introduced legislation to compensate growers up to $100 million, saying, "There should be some compensation. They have done nothing. They shouldn't be held accountable. You have indicted an entire industry and left doubt that it's OK to eat tomatoes.''

Is he right? Was the FDA too quick to point the tortilla chip in the wrong direction — or was it just doing its job by trying to be better safe than serrano?


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