COMMENTS: Too Much Tomato

Food safety is obviously an important public health priority--but this salmonella story is definitely overblown. Not a single death has occurred from the bug. In the entire United States, just 1200 cases of sickness have reported over the last three months. That is an average of less than a hundred cases each week. Yet in just a couple of months, the salmonella story has totaled 37 minutes of coverage on the weekday nightly newscasts (ABC 14, CBS 14, NBC 9). Now all three networks cover the FDA's decision that raw tomatoes are no longer under suspicion. "Some hot peppers might still be causing disease," warned NBC's Robert Bazell. CBS' Kelly Cobiella reassured us that any tomatoes that might have been tainted "are off store shelves by now." It is possible that tomatoes may not have been the source of the taint after all. ABC's Lisa Stark (embargoed link) found tomato farmers "furious" because they were forced to plow their crops back into the soil rather than take them to market.

If it is true that the FDA's tomato warnings were overblown, surely the national news media were wrong to grant them such extreme, credulous publicity.


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