Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Attack of the tomato killers.

Um, this has been bugging me for days, and I don't know why it's taken me this long to work up a rolling head of steam, but there you are. It's 5:25 Wednesday morning, and I woke up annoyed.

Why are Americans addicted to crisis? The disproportionality of the way people react to news events is staggering.

Remember a handful of years ago when there there was much hue and cry about banks raising ATM fees? Well, the bank would glean what amounted to a small percentage of what you'd withdrawn from the ATM, yet that percentage pales in comparison to federal, state and local taxes which virtually double the price of gasoline. How about the fact that you have to work until May for the US government before you get to keep what you earn for the rest of the year? RILLY? You're going to gripe about giving Wells Fargo an extra $2.50 when you withrdraw $200, but you'll give the government a pass on a relationship which in other arenas of business would be called usury or indentured servitude? No, they'll slog on, thinking "one day, massah gonna set me free" and meanwhile they are all moral outrage about a few dollars. Give me a break.

So, the crisis of the moment involves tomatoes. If you watch the news, then apparently half the country is freaking the hell out about tomatoes and salmonella poisoning. McDonald's is going all drama-queen on us and will not be serving tomatoes for the immediate future.

Because, um, everyone knows tomato farmers inject tomatoes with salmonella. Or they use salmonella for fertilizer, right?

It's called "washing" the tomatoes and using clean cutting implements, morons!

If you keep a clean work surface, use clean knives, wash the fruit thoroughly and keep the cut fruit at an appropriate temperature, then you won't have salmonella growing on it. How hard is that?

So instead of these restaurants which have sickened people with their unclean practices cowboying up and having a little tighter quality control, they'll make a big public show of stopping using tomatoes in their products, as if the tomato farmers they are crippling are to blame for sick customers.

Grow up. Wash your food. Clean your damned kitchens. Buy tomatoes and eat them-- they are good for you.

The sad thing about common sense is that there's nothing common about it any more. We'll sit with our asses snugly ensconced in our hellbound handbaskets and babble fits of righteous indignation about teacup tempests. Our lives are so insulated from real peril that we collectively have no ability to discern what are real crises and what are just the senseless events which simply will happen on occasion.


[Update - Hols informs me that she read that the salmonella was in the soil and thus the tomatoes are imbued with the pathogen, though only in the round and Roma varieties. Meh. There I go, half-cocked and full of bull. *snort*]


Thud said...

Is it too early for 'attack of the killer tomatos 2'

g bro said...

Annoyed? You? ;-) It's only because you care.

Anonymous said...

And when the restaurants start serving tomatoes again,, whatcha wanna bet the price of a hamburger will go up about a dime? I was going to get some maters on the vine at Kroger to put on some burgers off our grill but not at $4.00 a pound. I can get a whole gallon of gasoline for $4.00.

HollyB said...

Um, I hate to bring this up...but better you should hear it from a friend, right?
The story I heard on the news is that the salmonella is in the soil and therefore grows INTO the actual system of the tomato plant.

Now why it's only Romas and Round tomatoes...I don't know. But Grape and cherry varieties are still safe to eat. So are the kind with the stem attached and for the morons in the viewing audience...'maters you grow yourownself!

Anonymous said...

Oh you're not half-cocked, woman!

This year tomatoes are being villainized; last year it was the great spinach frenzy of 2007.

In both cases the BIGGER issue(s) (subtext: (1) indentured servitude of migrant workers picking our fruits & veggies; (2) Lack of proper and hygenic toilet facilities for said migrant workers; (3) The tremendous amount of fossil fuels used to transport said vegetables/fruits; (4) The perils of farm subsidies, to name a few)) have gone TOTALLY ignored.

And I agree, cleanliness is our first line of defense. My kitchen might look like a bomb went off in it; however, when handling fresh fruits or veggies, I scrub the hell out of them with a scotch brite pad and dish detergent and thoroughly rinse them off.

I can't believe this stuff is actually "panic worthy."

NotClauswitz said...

I don't think Americans are generally so crisis-oriented, so much as is the Media - they have become totally dependent on making mountains out of molehills.

Attila the Mom said...

Last night I was messing around in the fridge and pulled out a pack of round red tomatoes I bought before it all hit the fan. I really debated over it---because I hate to waste money.

But it ended up in the trash. I don't know if the symptoms of salmonella are similar to that of giardia, but even after 20 years, the memory of a week of projectile vomiting and pooping is still fresh in my memory. LOL

Zelda said...

The Media to blame, as usual. They are addicted to crisis because it sells. And with the quality of reporting in the tank, sensationalism is just about all they have.

And not to be a killjoy to a post I agree with very much, I am pretty sure I got a mild case of salmonella from tomatoes I ate at a restaurant last week. Or at least it's a plausible explanation for what I had.

aepilot_jim said...

Not to go all tangent-y and everything, but up till the late 18th century tomatoes were thought to be poisonous anyway.

Lynx217 said...

I heard through my job when the recall first happened that whole tomatoes are fine. It's the ones that COME sliced that are dangerous and that is why my store and fast food restaurants like McD's are recalling them - not because our kitchens might be dirty, but because the place that slices them is, and since no one knows WHO is the dirty one slicing tomatoes, everyone's recalling them as a safety precaution.

Lin said...

Kind of makes you wonder how any of our filthy bugger ancestors in the Dark Ages lived long enough to procreate, doesn't it?

I met a charming microbiologist who cultured all sorts of rude things in eggs as a side job. You know that he probably washed his hands at least. With the price of eggs skyrocketing, maybe everyone switched over to tomatoes as a growing medium. Just kidding, of course.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

At least you tried. It's still a good idea to wash your food and clean your damned kitchen. You were absolutely right there.

NotClauswitz said...

I think tomatoes were thought to be poisonous because they're a member of the nightshade family, which also included potatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
But how did the salmonella get in the soil? The problem with the Spinach in California was improper sanitation by the spinach-pickers and pickin' company. People pooped and pee'd in the fields.
For the same reason don't eat lettuce in Guatemala (or amany such places) - it's been watered with stream and "other" runoff and 99% of the time it contains much *more* than just Salmonella.
When we lived overseas on the Sub-Continent we didn't eat anything fresh from the ground that wasn't well cooked (and we boiled out water), but tree-fruits were ok because of the extensive internal filtering the tree provided.
On the east coast tomatoes were a standard part of regional cooking and the Peace Corps guys in our area were constantly working on improving village water-pumps and irrigation systems to prevent intrusion of cow and human-born microbes by preventing public latrines and water pumps from sharing any close proximity - which they often did out of convenience and economy - pipe was expensive, and one required the washing-up facility that the pump provided. However contaminants leeched down through the soil into the pump source and made everybody sick. One has to be off-limits of the other.
People stupidly rationalize that, "Oh, the villagers are accustomed to the water." but in fact nobody ever is - what they are is "accustomed" to having amoebic dysentery all their damn lives, and the occasional deadly bout of cholera.

J.R.Shirley said...


I completely agree that we seem to be addicted to crisis.

And as someone who at a Mexican restaurant in Mobile, Alabama last Sunday night, along with about four other members of the family apparently picked up my own strain of Salmonella St. Paul, I can swear by all I hold holy you do NOT want this. Believe me. I've "only" had symptoms for about the last five days, with all the explosions in the first eight hours, but my body will probably take weeks to fully recover.

And hopefully I won't blow my 4.0 graduate GPA in this process.


Dedicated_Dad said...

I don't think they get in through the roots -- people have been fertilizing with manure for centuries.

Smells like spin to me...


Unknown said...

We do seem to go crazy about everything, but sometimes it can be a good thing when big corporations are lazy or irresponsible and won't change unless the media makes a big stink about it. Unfortunately, they do it so often nowadays that it's like crying wolf.

But, I knew there was a reason I preferred the cherry tomatoes.