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Salmonella Outbreak on Tomatoes
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 • Posted June 11, 2008

I hate to pass on information like this because I would never want to discourage the consumption of fruits or vegetables, but it would be worse if someone didn’t know about the danger and got very sick. I expect they’ll get this sorted out quickly and we can get back to eating tomatoes on anything and everything soon, but for now it’s best for you to cook any red Roma, round, or plum tomatoes that you buy from the grocery store, and don’t eat the ones that come on your burgers unless you ask the cooks if they’ve come from a safe source. This information comes directly from the CDC. I’m also including some general information on the safe handling of fruits and vegetables.

At this time, FDA is advising that consumers in New Mexico and Texas should limit their tomato consumption to those that are not the likely source of this outbreak. These include cherry tomatoes; grape tomatoes; tomatoes sold with the vine still attached; tomatoes grown at home; and raw red Roma, red plum, and round red tomatoes from specific sources listed at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html. Consumers should be aware that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part of fillings for tortillas, and are used in many other dishes.

Customers everywhere are advised to:

Refrigerate within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes.

Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.

Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.

Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and raw produce items.

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.

FDA recommends that New Mexico and Texas retail outlets, restaurants, and food service operators offer only fresh and fresh cut red Roma, red plum, and round red tomatoes and food products made from these tomatoes from specific sources listed at: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/tomatoes.html#retailers. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached from any source may be offered.

General Fresh Produce Safety Tips

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.

All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce that is purchased from a grocery store or farmer’s market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.

Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first.

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.

Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

What About Pre-washed Produce?

Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. This pre-washed, bagged produce can be used without further washing.

As an extra measure of caution, you can wash the produce again just before you use it. Precut or prewashed produce in open bags should be washed before using.

Separate for Safety

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood - and from kitchen utensils used for those products.

In addition, be sure to:

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry and seafood products and the preparation of produce that will not be cooked.

For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and counter tops periodically. Try a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.

If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.

These guidelines and more information are available at:http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/prodsafe.html

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