Is the salmonella-tainted tomato "scare" over? The New York Times reports:
Six new cases of an unusual form of salmonella linked to eating raw tomatoes have been confirmed in New York City, in addition to a previously known case, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said on Wednesday. In addition, Suffolk County announced that a 26-year-old West Babylon man also contracted the strain of salmonella from eating tomatoes at New York City on May 27.
Maybe I have an undue attachment to pico de gallo, but I was upset when my restaurants pulled tomatoes off the menu. I was cheerfully willing to accept the tiny risk of encountering Mr. Salmonella.
There have been 383 cases of tomato-related salmonella reported since April. Even if all the cases occurred in April, that's just 12-13 cases a day. By contrast, 6 billion pounds of fresh tomatoes* are consumed each year by 300 million Americans spread over a market area of 3 million square miles. I would be flabbergasted if only a couple handfuls (literally) of the tomatoes consumed each day were contaminated with some bacteria. Fresh produce always has a chance of being contaminated with something. It's an extremely small chance, though -- I imagine it is zero, to five significant digits, even when there is a confirmed "outbreak." My chance of ending up with a contaminated tomato is still practically indistinguishable from zero.
When the FDA detects an outbreak of salmonella, it ought to investigate. We ought to work hard to get tainted food out of the system. But there will always be some bad stuff out there no matter how hard we try. Don't mess with my pico unless there's a real epidemic.
*20 pounds of fresh tomatoes per American per year times 300 million.