Some people got sick after eating dishes with tomatoes in them, but most people didnít ó some at home, some in restaurants. It was happening all across the country. A lot of people said they ate dishes with tomatoes in them. So, itís got to be the tomatoes, right? It couldnít possibly be the minimum-wage busboy who didnít wash his hands after using the restroom. After all, he already washed his hands once today. It must be the tomatoes! It couldnít be the grabby 3-year-old behind you who crawled on the floor then sucked his fingers and touched everything he could reach on his way out. He probably got sick from tomatoes.

It canít be the ice they put in your soda that comes from a machine that hasnít been cleaned since it was first installed; itís got to be the tomatoes.

It couldnít have been the guy who sneezed as he walked past your table without covering his nose; it must be the tomatoes.

It couldnít come from touching the menus that have been handled by every customer thatís ever been in the place. Thereís no way that could transmit germs; it must be the tomatoes.

Itís not the cash you just got out of the ATM or the change in your pocket. Everyone knows that thereís a secret ingredient in money that kills germs on contact ó no matter how many people with filthy hands touch it, it canít transmit disease. Itís got to be the tomatoes.

It canít come from the French fry your boyfriend snatched from the pile on your plate with the same hands he had been using to clean the fish tank 20 minutes ago; itís got to be the tomatoes.

Itís not the hamburger you ate with your bare hands after driving the rental car you picked up at the airport two hours ago, because they always disinfect those steering wheels. Itís got to be the tomatoes.

It couldnít be touching the snot-encrusted Game Boy that Junior and his little brother were fighting over all morning. Itís the tomatoes.

It wasnít the diaper that you just changed in the rest area, you could eat off the floor in those places, itís the tomatoes you put on your BLT.

Itís probably not the plastic utensils in those little buckets in the company cafeteria. Sure, itís hard to grab one fork without touching two of the others, but one little touch wonít spread germs. Itís not like theyíre tomatoes.

It couldnít come from the telephone. Sure, every time you touch it youíre practically sucking up someone elseís dried spit, but we all know itís the tomatoes. What else could it possibly be?

Thereís no way disease could be spread by children. Talk to any parent or teacher, and theyíll tell you they rarely get sick during the school year. Itís only when they eat, touch or walk past a tomato that they start to feel ill.

Shake hands? Kiss on the cheek? Grab a strap on the bus, a handrail on an escalator? Eat a hot dog at the ballpark that got passed down the row to you hand over hand? Itís all risky behavior. Who knows if the other people who touched those things might have touched a tomato first?

Whoops! Wait a minute. The FDA just announced itís perfectly safe to eat tomatoes. It turns out that theyíre actually good for you! Go figure. Thank goodness this scare didnít put every tomato grower in the country out of business ó it just cost them tens of millions of dollars theyíll never get back.

Something else must have made all those people sick. It couldnít possibly have been the five-alarm chili they ate for lunch or the three tequilas they drained to wash them down. Itís got to be the jalapenos Ö

Jim Mullen is the author of ďIt Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple LifeĒ and ďBabyís First Tattoo.Ē You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com