by Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.
Suddenly, tomatoes are scary.
To those of you who have sworn off tomatoes and tomato products in light of the recent salmonella outbreak, please go back to eating tomatoes. Not the ones identified by the FDA as possibly problematic (plum, roma and big red tomatoes without the stem and grown in just a few locales), but any or all of the others. Salmonella-leery consumers are shunning this joy of summer. It seems all too common to go to extremes and give up this beautiful, juicy fruit all together.
We’ve had food scares in the past, and this time we are quite fortunate that both the FDA and the food and restaurant industries have taken quick action. When these things happen, I’m reminded why eating locally and knowing where your food comes from are vital.
Tomatoes are the second most commonly eaten vegetable (after, you guessed it, potatoes). They’re rich in vitamins A and C and lycopene, a carotenoid responsible for the tomato’s bight red hue and a cousin to beta-carotene.
In laboratory studies, lycopene’s strong antioxidant power seems to protect our cell’s DNA from oxidative damage. Lycopene may protect us further by stimulating enzymes to deactivate cancer-causing compounds before cancer begins.
Fruits and vegetables in general are linked to healthier blood pressure, stronger bones, less stroke and reduced rates of heart disease and several types of cancer. So as a registered dietitian, it’s clear why I want my patients and all Americans to eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes.
Visit the FDA website for an update of the contaminated tomato outbreak. FDA investigators are focusing on Mexican-grown tomatoes and those from parts of Florida. Enjoy other varieties of tomatoes, all tomatoes from other areas, and all tomato products like ketchup and tomato sauce. But what’s your best bet for delicious, safe produce? Shop locally, get to know your farmer, grow your own.
Enjoy all the delicious, nutritious bright colors of summer.
Have you bought tomatoes since the outbreak? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.
Tags: tomatoes and salmonella