Salmonella Marinara! Yet Another Reason to Know Your Farmer


Talk about rotten tomatoes. The outbreak started in mid-April and there have been cases of illness in at least 17 states (including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin).

Here’s the latest:

The FDA has ruled out California, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Belgium, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico as sources of contamination.

This latest food poisoning outbreak points to a few serious problems with our food supply.

-Lack of traceability: it has taken the FDA almost two months to determine that the outbreak is either in Florida, or in Mexico (who knows how long it will take them to narrow it down from there?).

-Nonsensical market forces: a person can live in a state that grows and harvests tomatoes and the tomatoes from that state can be perfectly safe, yet this person can become sick from tomatoes grown thousands of miles away because the system is not set up so that they can go to their local grocery store and purchase tomatoes grown nearby.

-Way too many food miles: people want tomatoes year round, so I understand importing them from Mexico and Central America. Or the northern U.S. drawing from Florida. But, what are we doing importing tomatoes from Israel, Canada, and Belgium in April? It’s insanity.

What’s the solution? Homegrown tomatoes and tomatoes grown on small and medium sized farms and sold in farmers’ markets have not been implicated. So buy your fruits and vegetables in season from farmers you know or get them from your organic CSA program, and you’ll be enjoying your caprese, marinara and BLT in no time.

Image: jacki-dee

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.