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NEWS RELEASE July 7, 2008

Angry Doctors Use 1,000 Tomatoes To Spell Out Salmonella Source For FDA: It’s The Meat, Stupid!

Demonstration July 8 at U.S. Health and Human Services Seeks FDA Focus on Animal Agriculture’s Key Role in Foodborne Illnesses Linked to Tomatoes

WASHINGTON—As the Food and Drug Administration enters the 13th week of its struggle to identify the source of the salmonella outbreak that has reached 38 states and the District of Columbia, doctors will spell it out for them—quite literally. Doctors from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will use more than 1,000 tomatoes arranged to write “IT’S THE MEAT, STUPID!” in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building at 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., on Tuesday morning. They aim to highlight the key role of meat industry pollution in spreading salmonella, E. coli, and other foodborne pathogens that affect thousands of Americans every year.

“Salmonella are intestinal bacteria, and tomatoes have no intestine,” PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., says. “These germs come from chicken and cow feces that contaminate waterways used for irrigation and contaminate kitchen counters and grocery store shelves.”   

A dangerous salmonella strain dubbed "salmonella saintpaul" has sickened more than 900 Americans in recent weeks. Pollution from animal agriculture is the most likely original source. Like E. coli, salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of animals and are usually transmitted to humans from food contaminated with animal feces. As a recent Pew Commission Report on industrial farm animal production noted, untreated animal waste harboring pathogens contaminates air, water, soil, and crops. Farm animal waste was the identified cause of a 2006 E. coli outbreak in which infected spinach killed three people and sickened hundreds of others, according to an investigation by the FDA, an agency within Health and Human Services.

Dr. Barnard pointed out that infected cows and chickens, not tomatoes or other vegetables, are the ultimate source of dangerous outbreaks of foodborne illness. The problem needs to be attacked at the source, in the factory farms, ranches, and feedlots where infected animals produce waste that contaminates healthful produce. Salmonella are currently found on approximately one-third of chicken products in retail stores, and feces from chickens and other animals carry the bacteria to other food products. Consumers can fight foodborne illnesses by choosing meatless meals.

Event details:
WHO: Neal Barnard, M.D., nutrition researcher and president of PCRM; Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., public health specialist; and other PCRM health experts

WHAT:  “It’s the Meat, Stupid!” will be spelled out with more than 1,000 tomatoes, as doctors urge FDA to focus on meat industry’s role in salmonella outbreak

WHEN: Tuesday, July 8th, 10:30 a.m. to noon                                               

WHERE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W. (in plaza area between 2nd and 3rd streets)

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne McVey

Neal Barnard, M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D.

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