SO IT AIN'T THE TOMATOES?
Oxygen? Cilantro? Jalapenos?
Why is it that I have to go to the Wall Street Journal to get clarity on this disaster about tomatoes and salmonella? The WSJ? This morning's SD Union-Tribune continues to report that the FDA "suspects" tomatoes but is now looking at other potential sources of this outbreak that has sickened nearly 1000 people (reported) over the past 2 months. Other sources now include cilantro and jalapenos...two items commonly used in salsa and guacamole. Why not avocados? Well, they are not a carrier or transmitter of the pathogen (well, according to the FDA, which should make all of us feel better, right?)...but we might as well throw oxygen in the mix while we are searching for answers since we are no closer to solving this now than when it started...and in the process we have just about destroyed the US and Mexican tomato industries...this is the fear of everyone who produces food and fiber for our country...that the government, media, environmental groups or other "public advocates" will ruin us in the process of their desire to "protect us"...the old-timers out there recall the ALAR scare of some years ago...and check this link out to see how it continues to destroy apple growers long after the false headlines goes away (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE7DB163BF93AA35754C0A967958260)
Do you find it odd that you haven't heard anything about major restaurant chains (McD's, In N Out, Olive Garden, Applebees, etc.) not being involved in this mess? Why is that? Well, the WSJ says (unbeknownst to me prior to reading it in yesterday's front page edition) that this outbreak of salmonella is limited to small restaurants (read "Mom and Pop's) and for those of us in or with a produce background we know that the sources of fresh produce many (not all) of these small outlets use can have marginal quality, handling practices and sanitation in the way in which they handle fresh produce, meat, etc. It is a tough job to manage all the issues in the chain of custody of our food and these small shops, which may have great food and try their best but purchase food in very small quantities from terminal markets or other secondary sources...can have some quality concerns that larger stores and restaurants don't...(and the flip-side is that the small stores can sometimes get specialty and local produce and items that the large ones cannot)...but there is a risk...
So what to do...well since we can't stop breathing (remember, oxygen is on our list of sources for the moment, as should be cotton candy, radishes, ginzu knifes, and bubble gum), we should for the moment be very careful about having freshly made salsa at small restaurants...since the WSJ confirms that jalapenos are an easier potential source of the e-coli pathogen than tomatoes...and keep your eye out for overall sanitary conditions at the places you eat (check out the bathrooms...if a place cannot keep its bathrooms clean, do you think the kitchen would be any different?)...and wash and refrigerate your food well (water works just fine)...and write a letter to the FDA or your political reps to tell them to stop pointing the fingers at specific crops unless they have better evidence because they are putting people out of business...oh, and start buying and eating fresh grown and well washed tomatoes again!
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We lost a great one today kids! Larry Harmon AKA Bozo the Clown left us at the young age of 83!
The world mourns (especially Mike Gallagher.) We will miss you Bozo but your spirit will live on in all of the various ways in which we can use your beloved name..."What a bozo!" or "Don't be a bozo!" (True story...I knew a car salesman in Reedley by the name of Bozo...he was actually a legendary salesman...so don't go whining if you are stuck with a name you don't like! If guys named Bozo can succeed just think you can do!)