Monday, June 9, 2008

Killer Tomatoes?

At a family barbecue yesterday, my father sparked an unnecessary panic.

About killer tomatoes.

"You put tomatoes on the salad?" he said in an alarmist tone, pointing his index finger at my picturesque presentation of fresh vegetables in a lovely blue and white serving dish. "On the news they're saying that they've been recalled. I wouldn't eat those if I were you."

Unfortunately for me, I'm very susceptible (embarrassingly so) to the power of suggestion when it comes to all manner of illness. Years ago, when e coli outbreak stories were all over the news, I began insisting that all the grilled meat that I was served be transformed into charcoal briquettes to make sure I wouldn't accidentally ingest anything lurking on or in the meat. This behavior earned me the nickname, "e coli girl."
The paranoia isn't limited to accidental, mass food contamination, says the woman with the mega Purell pump-action bottle sitting next to the driver's seat in her mini-van. Whenever I hear about any strain of stomach bug going through my kids' schools and savaging various people's intestinal tracts, my stomach starts churning and I immediately feel nauseous. When I learn of a lice outbreak at school, my scalp starts itching and I think I see white specks on all my kids' heads . . . sad, pathetic soul am I.

So the last thing I needed was for my similarly squeamish father to get me all worked up about the tomatoes on the salad and the tomatoes my brother and his wife sliced to put on the hamburgers. (No, I didn't eat the tomatoes on the salad, but when I ate the lettuce, which was under the tomatoes, worry was making my stomach grumble.)

This morning I tracked down a news story about the salmonella outbreak in 16 states. According to USA Today, the states where illnesses related to tomatoes have been reported include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Massachusetts, where I live, is not on that list. But, as my father pointed out when I asked him if Massachusetts vendors had been part of the outbreak, we ARE next door to Connecticut and one never knows if and when contaminated, killer tomatoes may make their way across the border, sneakily hopping on board trucks, and appearing on kitchen tables near you.

However USA Today added, "Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and home-grown tomatoes are not associated with the outbreak." The tomatoes on my salad were of the on-the-vine variety, but, given that I am my father's daughter when it comes to things such as this, in the primo time of the year to serve fresh tomatoes and fresh tomato products, I'll be keeping them off my table until health officials figure out exactly where the salmonella came from. My father will be so proud.

Image credit: Florida Today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your father my be very proud---however, your mother is worried!!!