GENEVA - Reuters
Food safety experts agreed for the first time on the qualities defining a tomato, in a first step toward an international code on preventing fruit and vegetable contamination.
Tomatoes are currently the focus of an investigation by U.S. health officials who are looking for the cause of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 922 people in at least 40 states.
World Health Organization scientist Peter Ben Embarek said the classification of tomatoes based on their size, shape, colour, firmness and defects, and accordant rules on tomato labelling, would facilitate trade and eventually make it easier for regulators to impose safety standards.
"Now it is much clearer for everybody what you call a Class 1 tomato, for example, and what you can expect when you buy a Class 1 tomato," Ben Embarek said at the end of a week-long meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a food safety body. "It is part of an effort of Codex to improve the quality and safety of fruit and vegetables," he said, adding that officials planned to later focus on leafy green vegetables and melons.