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What has the tomato scare taught us?
Food inspectors need to do a better job, or maybe we should all relax.
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hat happened
Food-safety officials have traced tomatoes tainted with salmonella to supermarkets and restaurants, although they haven’t singled out any particular fast-food chain. But federal authorties said Wednesday that they still didn’t know the original source of the tomatoes that have caused at least 167 cases of salmonella poisoning. (AP in The Washington Post)

What the commentators said
This is getting to be a familiar routine, said the Corpus Christi, Texas, Caller-Times in an editorial. A few people get sick, outbreaks are reported in more locations, a food is connected with the illness, and a recall follows—as happened when restaurants and grocery stores stopped selling tomatoes. It’s getting increasingly clear that regulators need to do a better job of inspecting the fruits and vegetables grown on American farms.

Perhaps it would be easier for them if Congress would give them more power to protect the food supply, said The Washington Post in an editorial. This scare demonstrated the need for lawmakers to approve a proposal to give the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department the power to recall tainted food—the way the government recalled lead-tainted toys from China last year. And another good idea hanging in limbo is instituting a better system for tracking food from farm to dinner table, which would help contain the next outbreak faster.

The real lesson here is that we shouldn’t go crazy over every outbreak, said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. Tomatoes have been “black-listed” everywhere as “red devils looking for victims,” but lost in the hysteria is the fact that the FDA has cleared tomatoes grown in Texas—and half the nation’s states, as well as seven foreign countries—from suspicion in this case. So can we please “restore sanity to the menu”?

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