In the 1978 spoof, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, mutant variants of this seemingly "docile" fruit stage a murderous revolt against humanity.
The current tomato crisis is no laughing matter.
When a Twitter friend from Texas mentioned that there were "no tomatoes at Mexican restaurant tonight due to statewide salmonella scare" I tossed off a joking remark and thought nothing more about it. I don't watch TV newscasts very often, and I had seen no relevant articles in any of our local papers.
When I read online yesterday that MacDonald's had stopped serving tomatoes in their fast food chain, I sat up and took notice. The small piece that appeared in our local paper didn't give much information, so I did a quick Internet search.
The Food and Drug Administration site was very informative. It described the situation, listed the varieties of tomatoes that are safe to consume, "cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home," and those that should be avoided "raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw round red tomatoes." There is a list of areas NOT associated with the salmonellosis outbreak, and the FDA adds:
Consumers who are unsure of where the tomatoes are from that they have in their home are encouraged to contact the store or place of purchase for that information.
Consumers should also be aware that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part of fillings for tortillas, and are used in other dishes.
Restaurants, grocery stores, and food service operators have been advised by the FDA not to offer for sale or service raw red plum, Roma, or red tomatoes and products made from these types of tomatoes unless they are from one of the areas listed above.
It concerns me that none of this information was made available until two months after the outbreak began. Even in an "Age of Information," it's impossible to stay well-informed if key facts are concealed from the general public.
I'm not an alarmist, but I don't take unnecessary chances: I expect to be told about potential health risks.
I plan to take a trip to our local Farmers' Market this weekend, just to be on the safe side. Because Killers Tomatoes apparently come in all shapes and sizes.
"Tomatoes hanging overhead" by sylvar