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Rotten Tomatoes

Food safety is often overlooked in all the talk about health and wellness. But let's face it, if the food makes you sick, who cares about antioxidant content? The point becomes moot, as they say.

4030355245.jpeg Tomatoes are a great source of Vitamin A, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene. Currently they're also the source of a major problem for government regulators, public health investigators, farmers and retailers. Daily news conferences hosted by top officials at the Food and Drug Administration announce that they're not any closer to pinpointing the source of the salmonella outbreak first reported nearly three months ago. Meanwhile hundreds of people have become ill, and tomato fields not cleared by the agency have turned into a rotten red mess.

The lead story in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal notes that tomatoes are the No. 2 seller in the supermarket produce department, behind bagged salads. A study conducted for our magazine, SN Whole Health, by Avero Research, indicates that a notable percentage of consumers will swear off all products associated with a recall, even if they're not directly involved.

In this case, the FDA stresses that only red round, Roma, and plum varieties are suspect. But many consumers don't hear that, or are too skeptical. So, the cherry, heirloom, on-vine and grape tomatoes go unsold too. If you've been in a produce department lately, you know this hurts retailers, who build big, proud displays of these summertime favorites.

I don't think we'll discover the cause of the salmonella outbreak. Officials have admitted as much, noting the tomato production process is extremely diversified and hard to trace. What I do hope is that retailers erect big signs saying their product comes from approved vendors, so that doubt is erased and consumers buy tomatoes. Then we can get back to talking about the benefits of lycopene.