You should keep washing those tomatoes before you cut and eat them. But a new study shows that still won’t guarantee the tomatoes won’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 fruit’s skin or near a stem. Now University of Florida research shows, for the first time, that it’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 shouldn’t worry that much; salmonella contamination’s still extremely unlikely.
Ariena Van Bruggen/UF Plant Pathology Researcher: “We 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.”
Experts say consumers can’t wash away salmonella inside the fruit, so you shouldn’t keep fruits and vegetables longer than a week and instead, buy fresh produce.
Ariena Van Bruggen/UF Plant Pathology Researcher: “In general, don’t keep tomatoes for too long; it is better to buy frequently rather than keeping them long because salmonella can grow inside the fruit. It’s not just that they are there, if they are there, but they can actually multiply inside of the fruit. ”
UF scientists also advise tomato growers to use organic soil, as it appears to have more mechanisms to resist the bacteria than what’s found in conventional soil.