Gregory Bull/AP
Tomatoes sit for sale at Central de Abastos market in Mexico City. In response to the
recent salmonella outbreak, major Mexican tomato growers have stopped shipments
to the United States while U.S. authorities investigate the outbreak. (AP)

Despite Recent Scares, Food-Borne Illnesses Not on the Rise

June 17, 2008 01:47 PM
by Cara McDonough
The recent salmonella outbreak has restaurants, supermarkets and consumers avoiding tomatoes. But is our fear of food warranted?

30-Second Summary

Following a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes that sickened 228 people in 23 states, many restaurants and grocery stores have pulled tomatoes from their menus and shelves.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of South Koreans are protesting meat imports, and homemade cheese is spreading tuberculosis in California. Highly publicized outbreaks like these may make the frequency of such illnesses appear to be increasing, the incidence of food-borne illnesses in the United States has stayed fairly constant over the past decade, says Martin Weidmann, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University.

Food safety experts maintain that people are more likely to be involved in a car crash than become ill from eating vegetables, reports the New York Daily News.

For those avoiding the produce aisle, the good news is that politicians are leaning on the Food and Drug Administration to improve food safety. “These continued outbreaks are unacceptable,” said Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as lawmakers investigated the salmonella-tainted tomato scare.

But columnist Marc Siegel and other skeptics say those concerned about their health should worry about more serious threats such as heart disease.

“Fear is still by far the biggest pathogen here, not salmonella,” Siegel wrote in The Washington Times. “The chance of your getting sick from sinking your teeth into a single tomato remains minimal, but it seems greater and greater the more media attention the problem gets.”

Headline Link: Food-borne illnesses remain steady

Opinion & Analysis: To worry, or not to worry?

Background: The salmonella scare, the FDA’s food inspection program

Related Topics: Korea’s beef with American meat; homemade cheese and TB

Reference: Food-borne illness information and prevention


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