Tenn. Delegation Urges FDA to Protect the State’s Tomato Producers

Tennessee Delegation Letter Calls for FDA to “Clearly Communicate” that Tennessee Tomatoes are Safe from Outbreak

Posted on July 1, 2008

In a joint letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Tennessee congressional delegation has requested that the FDA “quickly determine the [salmonellosis] outbreak’s source and effectively eliminate the contaminated tomatoes from our food supply without hurting the producers whose products are still safe.” “Tennessee tomatoes are some of the best in the country, and an outbreak in California shouldn’t harm producers in our state,” Senator Lamar Alexander said. “I recently brought a load of Grainger County tomatoes to Washington to serve fellow senators at a lunch. They were completely safe and enjoyed by everyone. I hope that the FDA will act quickly to publicly announce that many states like Tennessee are still producing good tomatoes, so that our farmers will not be hit with any more losses.” “When Tennesseans and Americans walk into the supermarket or visit a roadside stand, they need to know that the food they purchase for themselves and their families is safe and healthy,” Senator Bob Corker said. “Unfortunately, the salmonella outbreak, which has pulled certain tomatoes from store shelves, has hurt tomato producers nationwide, even in states like Tennessee where locally grown tomatoes were not subject to the recall. With the true culprit still unknown, I join my colleagues in the Tennessee congressional delegation in calling for the FDA to work aggressively to isolate the source of this outbreak, eliminate the threat posed to consumers and declare which products are safe for consumption so these producers aren’t harmed any further.” “Tennessee’s tomato producers have been hit hard by weather-related disasters in the last few years. Even though our state’s tomatoes are safe, the national salmonella outbreak is just one more challenge to our farmers. While it is critical for the FDA to maintain a safe food supply, it’s also important to ensure our local tomato farmers are not unduly impacted,” said Congressman Bart Gordon. “Our citizens need to know that the meal that they are going to put on the dinner table tonight is safe for their families to eat,” said Congressman John Duncan Jr. “It is my hope that this outbreak – and any future problems with our Nation’s food supply – can be isolated quickly, so damage to consumers and growers is minimized.” “It is critical that the federal government work to ensure the safety of our food supply and communicate clearly to the public not only the safety concerns of some products but also which products are safe to consume," said Rep. John Tanner. “Clear, complete public information is the only way we can make sure our families and farmers are safe from this and other outbreaks of contamination.” “It’s important that the FDA communicate quickly and clearly when part of America’s food supply may be contaminated,” said Congressman Jim Cooper. “I’m troubled that the longer our current tomato scare goes on, the fewer answers we seem to have. At this point, scientists aren’t even sure tomatoes are the culprit anymore. All Americans, including Tennessee tomato growers, should be able to count on the FDA to conduct swift, precise investigations that don’t disrupt people’s lives more than necessary.” “The public needs to know that Tennessee-grown tomatoes are safe to eat. The FDA has confirmed this. We are working to get out the word that these Tennessee products are still safe,” said Congressman Zach Wamp. “Even though Tennessee tomatoes have been found not to be contaminated we are hearing folks are still worried about our home-grown supply," said Congressman Lincoln Davis. “Tennesseans need to know our tomatoes are not only safe to eat, but delicious and healthy.” "Americans are growing increasingly exasperated with a federal government that does not seem capable of living up to its basic responsibilities. The FDA must use this current crisis as an opportunity to restore trust,” said Congressman Marsha Blackburn. “It is vital that the FDA ascertain the source of the salmonella outbreak as swiftly as possible, both for the safety of consumers and also to blunt the devastating effect on the livelihood of our farmers,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “Tennessee tomato producers are feeling a negative impact in light of the salmonella outbreak and we as a delegation are asking that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration look into the locations of safe tomato production in order to ease the negative impact our producers are feeling. Keeping Tennesseans safe and healthy is very important and it is essential that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration works closely with the State of Tennessee to identify any safe or unsafe tomato producers,” said Congressman David Davis. The letter, signed by every member of the Tennessee congressional delegation, goes on to say that, “We are starting to see the negative effects of this scare among tomato producers in our home state of Tennessee, even though it is listed as one of the states not associated with the outbreak. We urge the FDA to clearly communicate to the public where sage tomatoes are being grown so that these producers are not needlessly harmed any further. Tomato producers whose products are safe for consumption should not be punished unintentionally and unnecessarily.” A copy of the letter is available upon request.