Boycott Watch  
June 3, 2008
False Tomato Salmonella Scare Kills the Tomato Industry
Summary: CDC should be renamed the Center for Declaring Chaos
    The recent salmonella-tomato scare is costing the U.S. economy big. Tomato growers are being forced to let their crops rot on the vine when the fact is that we have no idea where the outbreak is coming from. In fact, all we really have to go on thus far is a report that one person died from salmonella poisoning after he ate a tomato, which we examine in more detail in this report.

    In fact, a report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the CDC, stated "raw tomatoes as the likely source of the illnesses" which they have been tracking since April, yet became a full-blown scare in June. The problem here is that tomatoes are very commonly used raw in many meals and we don't even know exactly what variety of tomato he ate, nor if the salmonella came from, most likely, cross contamination with tainted beef. Additionally, the number of people who have been affected is far from an epidemic - a mere 167 people in 17 states - a statistical insignificant anomaly at best.

    Salmonella infection symptoms typically only appear after 12 to 72 hours, thus a large number of foods may be the cause. While the CDC does a great job in investigating and reporting, the fact is that this scare may just be that, especially since we do not know the source. Most people just get some diarrhea from salmonella, and few die from it. In fact, most people do not even know when they suffer from it.

    The accusation of salmonella poisoning comes from the wife of a diseased cancer patient who had 4 tumors and who happened to have eaten a tomato. On the other hand, treatment for cancer and the disease itself result in patients having a compromised immune system, and although this specific patient was found to have salmonella after he died, the cancer he suffered from is much more likely to have taken his life. Additionally, the accusation came from the deceased mans wife, not medical professionals, thus further diminishing her claim and proving this is an unwarranted scare, as there was no medical evidence presented defining salmonella as the actual cause of death in this case. A more likely scenario here is that we are looking at the search for victimhood and a lawyer who wants to somehow establish victimhood by pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat.

    Meanwhile, Americans are essentially boycotting tomatoes, thus hurting an industry for no reason other than an unwarranted government scare fueled by the media.

    This is not the first time media scares based on CDC reports have hurt industries. The bird-flu scare cost the nation untold millions of dollars after a CDC report spread doomsday fears that the virus could jump species and kill millions of people, and that scare amounted to nothing. Meanwhile, new technologies constantly emerge to test for problems such as salmonella, not to mention the proliferation of equipment to test for various strains of salmonella, thus leading to a higher number of detections because there are more points of testing. You can not find what you have previously not tested for.

    In this case, CDC should probably stand for Center for Declaring Chaos, as there is just no evidence thus far establishing salmonella as the cause of death in the cancer patient, nor has any source of tomato based salmonella been identified. Additionally, vegetables are not native carriers of salmonella. Until a clear source is determined, if it can be, this is just a scare by the CDC which itself fears not reporting potential problems despite not having all the facts. Political Correctness by a U.S. government agency is costing farmers millions of dollars and making Americans afraid of monsters under the bed.

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