Monday, June 16, 2008

Salmonatoes and Scary Health News

If there's one thing that annoys me its scary-yet-unhelpful breaking health news. Currently, as I'm sure most of you have heard thanks to the tendency of the media to lick its collective chops at the prospect of a scary health news story, there's an outbreak of salmonella in tomatoes.

Okay, thanks for the heads up. As someone who absolutely hates to vomit, and thus would be rendered unbelievably miserable by salmonella, I am grateful for the warning. I will now avoid tomatoes.

Yet, when a simple "don't eat tomatoes" would do, you can always count on some people to make what should be a simple solution more difficult than it needs to be. For instance, a representative from one food safety group tells consumers:

"Be extremely careful in trying to find out exactly where the tomatoes they're purchasing are from."

Okay. But unless someone is on a medically-necessary diet that consists solely of tomatoes, isn't it just far easier to just not eat tomatoes rather than find out where every tomato you can potentially ingest comes from? Maybe I'm just lazy.

But but but, if you eat tomatoes you could get salmonella! And if you get salmonella you could die! As the Associated Press reports:

"[O]ne man died, apparently after eating pico de gallo, a tomato-based condiment, at a Texas restaurant in May. The 67-year-old man also suffered from cancer, however, and the death has been officially attributed to that disease, the news service reported."

In other words, ALERT ALERT ALERT, a man died after eating tomatoes but he didn't really die from salmonella! In less exciting news, it was found out that he really he died of cancer. Phew! But you can imagine how exciting and scary it would have been if he had really died of salmonella!

In fact, this outbreak is all part of a larger trend. We're in the midst of an all out crisis, folks:

"During the past several years, the United States has been beset by a series of food-safety crises. In fact, the U.S. Academy of Sciences this week declared that vegetables and fruits have become 'leading vehicles' of food-borne illness in the United States."

So, WTF? Should I not eat fruits and veggies? Or, should I eat them and just be "careful" about it, whatever that means? I mean, I definitely don't want to come down with salmonella and its attendant bloody diarrhea that every news story about the condition feels the need to mention in graphic detail, but cutting fruits and vegetables out of my diet is sure to lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Now that I'm sufficiently scared about what to put in my mouth, it's clear that the only way to be completely safe is to subsist entirely on gummy bears and Snickers bars.

Any other tips we should know about? Perhaps the so very helpful one about how people who drink red wine live longer but drinking wine is bad for you so you shouldn't drink red wine?

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