Killer Tomatoes

Okay—so I spent three weeks in Egypt and Jordan, being very careful to not eat anything unwashed or anything washed in tap water or anything leafy that might not be easily washed, and I managed to remain well, despite dire warnings that at least a day or two of illness was inevitable. (I also took acidophilus daily, avoided ice cubes, and drank only bottled water.) And all the precautions were worth it, because I didn’t lose a single day of my trip to the “Pharaoh’s Revenge.”

However, I looked forward to coming home and not having to be quite so careful. Ha! I return to discover that I now have to be careful with tomatoes here at home. Of course, I’m pleased I can go back to having lettuce and other leafy greens, but I was looking forward to my favorite fresh salsa, and now I have to be careful—and I’m not even on vacation.

Well, being the information addict that I am, I looked into the “rules” in effect now that we have questionable tomatoes threatening our health. Fortunately, local farmers’ markets are safe, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC)— http://www.cdc.gov —offers a list of places that have not had Salmonella outbreaks, and from which we can safely buy our tomatoes. But what do I do with that quart of fresh salsa I just bought?

Happily, Salmonella is pretty easily killed. The CDC says if I cook my fresh salsa (or raw tomatoes) at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds, it will kill the Salmonella. So this quart of Roma tomato-based salsa is going into soup.

Here are some other guidelines from the CDC to help you steer clear of Salmonella:

• Persons with increased risk of severe infection, including infants, elderly persons, and those with impaired immune systems, should not eat raw Roma or red round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home, and
• Persons who want to reduce their risk of Salmonella infection can avoid consuming raw Roma or red round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home.
• Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and discard any that appear spoiled.
• Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
• Refrigerate within 2 hours or discard cut, peeled, or cooked tomatoes.
• Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from raw meats, raw seafood, and raw produce items.
• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between types of food products.
• Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water especially after going to the restroom, before preparing or serving food and after changing a diaper.

Of course, buying from your local farmers’ markets is always a good option—even when there isn’t a food scare.

And, despite the killer tomatoes, it’s good to be home.

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