We posted yesterday about the press release issued by the Florida agricultural commissioner stating that tomatoes from Florida were not part of the salmonella outbreak. The presser also said "the bulk of illnesses have occurred in western states," implying that the tainted fruit was grown out there.
However, this story in the LA Times says, "Federal investigators are focusing on central Florida and Mexico but are hampered by the absence of bar codes or other ways to trace origin."
Quoting investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration, the story continues, "Investigators are focusing on tomatoes from central Florida and Mexico -- regions that would have supplied the bulk of the fruit on the market in April, when the outbreak started. They also have ruled out all of California and northern Florida."
So, two take-home points: One, if you thought you could relax and go ahead and eat any kind of Florida tomato, DON'T. (And Salivation Army deeply apologizes for passing along that information.) Stick with grape and cherry tomatoes for now.
And two, when consumer agencies start making statements based on some kind of ego or misguided team spirit, it just erodes the public's faith in government even further. It's possible that one of these stories predates the other, and each was reporting the truth as they knew it at the time. But as a food consumer, I would rather have waited to eat tomatoes one or two more days until everyone was absolutely sure it was safe than get some cheerleading press release too soon.
Actually, there's a third take-home point: Grow your own.