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Salmonella/Tomato Outbreak Info
From FDA Becomes More Bizarre

What Does the Word ‘Ongoing’ Mean?

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, June 20, 2008

Perhaps our biggest Pundit Peeve with this whole Salmonella Saintpaul/Tomato problem has been the lack of clarity with which CDC and FDA chooses to communicate to the public.

For example, the FDA and CDC keep characterizing the outbreak as “ongoing” without defining that term.

Now to a consumer, the word “ongoing” means “I am still at risk.”

Yet the FDA and CDC can’t really think that. We know of no retailers or restaurants selling tomatoes that are not on the FDA “Approved” list. So, if FDA believes in its list, one has to say the outbreak is over in the United States — with the possible exception of some consumers who may have old tomatoes or old fresh tomato products in the house.

We think what CDC and FDA mean is that the outbreak is “ongoing” in that they expect the number of sick people reported to increase as a result of state labs getting numbers to the CDC. These new files may even push the end date of the onset of illness from June 5 forward a few days.

FDA has not announced that it is aware of anyone selling tomatoes not on the recommended list. So if the recommended list is good, the tomatoes out there are good. So consumers run no risk as far as this outbreak goes.

Which to any consumer would mean the outbreak is over — not ongoing.

Why, though, should we need an interpreter to understand what CDC and FDA are saying? Why should CDC and FDA elect to speak in a way that causes consumer confusion? It makes no sense.

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