Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Hot" Tomatoes

"Should I eat that juicy red tomato in my salad?" is a question many people are asking themselves right now. Salmonellosis Outbreak in Certain Types of Tomato by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives information about the types of tomatoes involved in the recent Samonella outbreak (raw red plum, red Roma, round red tomatoes). It also lists the areas/states still considered safe for raw tomato consumption. (Texas is considered safe.) To date cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes with the vine still attached have not been linked with the disease.

Symptoms of Salmonellosis, the infection caused by the Samonella bacteria, are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps appearing 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most people do not need hospitalization for the disease which usually lasts 4 to 7 days and is normally treated with fluids and rest under a doctor's care. However, if the diarrhea becomes severe the patient may need hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics. Most at risk are the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems.

Measures listed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent Samonella contamination are:
  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.
  • Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
  • Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.