Until recent years, the subject of food was pretty much restricted to the recipe columns or the restaurant reviews toward the back of the papers, but now food news – usually bad news – is showing up on the front page.

Two years ago it was contaminated spinach; now it’s tainted tomatoes, probably from Mexico.

So far, 167 people have fallen ill because of a salmonella outbreak in a current crop of red plum, red round and red Roma tomatoes. Growers in Florida, the largest producing state, were relieved on Tuesday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared much of the state from culpability, although losses could total as much as $40 million because picking and packing were halted on Saturday, dooming much of the crop.

As a precaution food markets in a score of states, from California to Virginia, pulled some tomatoes from their bins, and major restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King said they are leaving tomatoes off of their sandwiches and salad bars. The tomatoes in question are dangerous only if eaten raw. Cherry, grape and on-vine tomatoes are not directly affected. Still, as with the e coli spinach problem of 2006, some consumers may choose to avoid all raw tomatoes for a period of time.

“The reality is that the entire tomato industry is being impacted,” said Ed Beckman, president of the California Tomato Farmers…

Full Story: http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2008/06/11/2193/