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Here’s a brief update on relevant stories relating to the salmonella outbreak that seems to be related to the consumption of raw tomatoes…

• The New York Times this morning reports that federal health officials seem confident that they shortly will be able to say how the salmonella outbreak originated, noting that they are “getting closer to identifying the source or sources.”

As the Times writes, “The agency warned consumers over the weekend to avoid certain raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes and products containing them. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and those sold with the vine still attached are not associated with the outbreak, officials said.” At least 167 people in 17 states appear to have been affected by salmonella poisoning, though nobody has died.

• The Chicago Sun-Times reports that “supermarkets and fast food chains that threw out tomatoes suspected in a salmonella outbreak were acting aggressively to protect their customers' health and avoid a consumer backlash,” and that it seems possible – even likely – that even once the source of the contamination is determined, consumers may “stay away from one of the joys of summer.”

• The Washington Post reports that “federal food safety officials yesterday cleared Florida's latest tomato crop as safe to eat, a move that is likely to speed the return of tomatoes to many restaurants.”

In addition, the Post says that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision is “expected to help grocery stores replenish their supplies of Roma, red plum and red round tomatoes, which remain the subject of a nationwide alert.”

• Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports, “the Bush administration increased its budget request for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by $275 million after the agency's commissioner told Congress that more funding was needed to protect against unsafe products.”

The White House originally asked for $2.4 billion in funding, but was undercut when FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach admitted under questioning that this number was inadequate.

KC's View:
Woefully inadequate, I’d say. Though while I firmly believe that additional funding is called for, I do have to wonder where the hell the money is coming from. And I have to wonder about what will happen, and how priorities will be set, when a new administration takes office next January.