Red Menace: The Tomato Salmonella Outbreak


There is a crisis in New York City. No, it’s not the heat. (If you’re a Post reader, we broke yesterday’s record temp of 97, set in 1933. If you read the Daily News, we fell one degree short.) It’s not the Dirty Tricks Scandal or that the iPhone is going to be faster and cheaper.

The crisis of epic proportions is that if you stroll into your local fast-food joint and order a burger, it’s going to be “hold the tomatoes” whether you like it or not. You can’t have it your way in this regard because of a salmonella outbreak affecting the fruit/vegetable. So far, 145 people have been infected and 23 hospitalized over 16 states. The outbreak started in Texas and New Mexico and affects raw red plum, red Roma and round red tomatoes. Tomatoes from Arkansas, California and Georgia are OK to eat, as are ones grown in Canada and Israel.

Fast food and chain restaurants McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse, and Taco Bell have yanked tomatoes off the menu. Food sellers Whole Foods, Kroger and Wal-Mart have also yanked the veg from stores, while local chains Gristedes and D’Agostino are keeping the “red menace” on the shelves.

The Post goes all out with this story, making it the only front page piece, declaring, “ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES!” in perfect B-movie font. (We’ll ignore the fact that no one has actually died in this outbreak.) McDonald’s gets the unfortunate association with the outbreak on page 5, as the golden arches logo appears next to pictures of lettuce, the evil red globe of disease and a burger. We get comments from customers about what a lyco-pain in the butt it is to not have the delicious, juicy tomatoes on their sandwiches.

The News covers the story on page 18, with a similar headline to the Post‘s page-5 “TOMATOES CANNED AT RESTAURANT.” It reads, “Tomatoes canned.”