Archive for December, 2007

Closing out the year on Sacramento real estate…

 As 2007 ends, Experts agree: Decline in American house prices are not over yet… and economists react: as New homes sales sink to the lowest annual rate in 12 years!!

 And then; More people buying into new developments are being left high and dry when their builders file for bankruptcy. Wouldn’t that be nice?

 Will prices continue to fall?

 How bout this one:

 Experts thought 2007 would bring a real estate recovery – not the worst collapse on record. What does that say about forecasts of a turnaround next year?

 Or this one:

 “Over the past decade, the exponential growth of credit derivatives has created unprecedented amounts of financial leverage on corporate credit,” he added. “Similar to the growth of subprime mortgages, the rapid rise of credit products required ideal economic conditions and disconnected the assessors of risk from those bearing it.” …what?

 All I know for sure is that opportunities like this only come around every 12 to 15 years in Sacramento… for those lucky enough to have withstood the craziness of this market and are in a position to buy now: good for you;  we’ll see you on easy street soon!! 

 Is there any doubt that prices will rebound? Does anyone wonder what will happen? Nobody knows when, but we all know this market will rebound and those who were able to buy sometime during this drop will be in the drivers seat…

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Sacramento Homebuyers: Hurry; Real Estate is on Sale!! How long can these great deals last?

Rooting Out the Rotten Tomatoes


Workers separate tomatoes at the sprawling Central de Abastos market in Mexico City on June 10

Workers separate tomatoes at the sprawling Central de Abastos market in Mexico City on June 10
Gregory Bull / AP

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So how much damage can a few rotten tomatoes really do? The tomato-linked salmonella outbreak announced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on June 3 has claimed 228 victims in 23 states over 58 days (and counting). It has put 25 people in the hospital and may have had a role in hastening the death of a cancer patient. And then there’s the flurry of panic as many of the tomatoes that American consumers take for granted every day suddenly disappear — from McDonald’s hamburgers; from the salsa at Chipotle Mexican Grill; from Burger King, Taco Bell and Sonic; and from the grocery shelves at Kroger, Wal-Mart and Target. Didn’t we just go through this with bagged spinach? With peanut butter? With pet food?

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Because the FDA’s tomato-recall recommendation is so specific — including only three types, grown in certain regions during a certain time — and because many national chains pulled their tomato stock within days of the announcement, most of the infected samples have likely been removed. But the outbreak remains ongoing; its source has not yet been determined, and the government is investigating new cases every day. It may be a few more weeks before the delicious staple fruit is given the all-clear.

Taking tomatoes off shelves and menus may contain the outbreak, but it doesn’t explain it. On May 22, the New Mexico Health Department notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it knew of seven people recently infected with Salmonella Saintpaul, an unusual strand of the bacteria that accounted for only 400 of the 1.4 million cases of salmonella infection reported last year. And it was precisely because occurrences of the Saintpaul strand are so rare that the report caught the CDC’s attention. When Texas and a few other states reported cases of people being infected by bacteria with the same “genetic fingerprint,” a multistate search for Salmonella Saintpaul was launched. While the CDC tracked reported illnesses, the FDA interviewed victims to find out what they had eaten (and where). The common answer was tomatoes.

There have been 13 outbreaks of salmonella in tomatoes since 1990, which puts the fruit on the list of high-risk foods that are prone to infection. But unlike the bagged spinach from the 2006 E. Coli scare, the tomatoes don’t come with a traceable bar code. “When you’re dealing with tomatoes, it is much, much more complex,” explains Dr. David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods. The FDA’s great tomato hunt has an ever-expanding list of suspects. A salmonella victim can point to the supermarket (or restaurant) that sold the offending fruit, but that store probably sources its tomatoes from several suppliers, each of which uses several distributors — and distributors buy from any number of growers.

“Each set of questions just multiplies into a fan of information that has to be sorted through to understand where the links cross over,” says Acheson. Although the FDA has managed to rule out some regions — northern Florida is safe because its tomatoes weren’t ready for harvest at the time of the outbreak — it will be some time until the true source is found. “We’re not quite there yet,” says Acheson, “but we’re getting very close.” But Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the CDC’s OutbreakNet team, warns that the source may never be found due to the fruit’s short shelf life. “You don’t expect to find an infected tomato sitting on someone’s counter 10 days after the outbreak,” says Williams.

Still, the lag time between the initial outbreak and the government’s reaction is startling: the first Salmonella Saintpaul victim fell ill on April 16, but the FDA didn’t announce the tomato link until June 3. Williams says part of the problem identifying salmonella outbreaks is that a lot of victims don’t see the symptoms — diarrhea, fever, vomiting — as sufficiently severe to warrant a visit to the doctor, and so they go undiagnosed. “There may be a delay in reporting outbreaks because people do not have a stool specimen tested,” he says. Officials have not yet identified an infected tomato, and because of the fruit’s short shelf life, they probably never will.

The FDA unveiled a tomato-safety initiative in 2007 that sought to identify causes of salmonella infection, but Acheson admits that studying preventive techniques doesn’t help the FDA deal with outbreaks. The FDA has no plans to change the initiative in the face of the recent outbreak.

Even if the FDA can pinpoint the source of the outbreak, it’s hard for consumers to know where their tomatoes are grown. Certain imported foods are required to carry country-of-origin labels, but that doesn’t apply to domestic produce. “I’m not aware of any tomato outbreak that was not domestic,” says Acheson. There is no such thing as a mandatory state-of-origin label for food, and federal authorities have yet to create such a law. “Saying ‘product of the U.S.’ isn’t necessarily going to confer safety,” he says. So much for reassurance.

Vi ste jeben.

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