Too lame: Attack of the killer tomatoes

The Washington Post reported today that teams involved with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Tomato Safety Initiative have completed their Virginia visits and went to more than 50 growing fields and three packing facilities.

Jack Guzewich, a specialist in foodborne diseases at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was cited as saying that because water can carry bacteria, investigators look at irrigation water, wells, chemical mixing procedures and the results of drought and flooding, adding,

"Animals can be anything from reptiles to birds and mammals — the whole zoological garden. Feces get into land and water, and, in some cases, an animal comes in contact with the plant."

FDA documents 12 outbreaks with a total of 1,840 cases of food-borne illnesses linked to fresh and fresh-cut tomatoes have occurred since 1998, and most were traced to Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Florida, two major growing areas, and a few to Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio and California. Salmonella was the main culprit.

The program will move to Florida during the fall growing season, with plans to reach other locales.

My team and I have spent a lot of time with greenhouse tomato growers in Ontario. There are numerous on-farm barriers to actually implementing good agricultural practices.

Check out our papers below:

Luedtke, A., Chapman, B. and Powell, D.A. 2003. Implementation and analysis of an on-farm food safety program for the production of greenhouse vegetables. Journal of Food Protection. 66:485-489.

Powell, D.A., Bobadilla-Ruiz, M., Whitfield, A. Griffiths, M.G.. and Luedtke, A. 2002. Development, implementation and analysis of an on-farm food safety program for the production of greenhouse vegetables in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Food Protection. 65: 918- 923.

We also published a book chapter entitled Implementing On-Farm Food Safety Programs in Fruit and Vegetable Cultivation, in the recently published, Improving the Safety of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time