You should keep washing those tomatoes before you cut and eat them. But a new study shows that still wonâ€™t guarantee the tomatoes wonâ€™t contain the bacteria that cause the most food-borne illness in humans, salmonella.
Experts used to worry only about salmonella contamination through cuts in the fruitâ€™s skin or near a stem. Now University of Florida research shows, for the first time, that itâ€™s possible for salmonella bacteria to enter a tomato plant through the leaves. Results show it can then travel through the entire plant and end up inside the fruit itself. But researchers say consumers shouldnâ€™t worry that much; salmonella contaminationâ€™s still extremely unlikely.
Ariena Van Bruggen/UF Plant Pathology Researcher: â€śWe found that it is possible that salmonella travels from an inoculated leaf internally through the stem all the way into the fruit. But it is a very rare occurrence.â€ť
Experts say consumers canâ€™t wash away salmonella inside the fruit, so you shouldnâ€™t keep fruits and vegetables longer than a week and instead, buy fresh produce.
Ariena Van Bruggen/UF Plant Pathology Researcher: â€śIn general, donâ€™t keep tomatoes for too long; it is better to buy frequently rather than keeping them long because salmonella can grow inside the fruit. Itâ€™s not just that they are there, if they are there, but they can actually multiply inside of the fruit. â€ť
UF scientists also advise tomato growers to use organic soil, as it appears to have more mechanisms to resist the bacteria than whatâ€™s found in conventional soil.