The other day I found myself looking askance at what could have been a bit of raw Roma tomato in my prepackaged sandwich from Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX). I dunno, it could have been a pimiento. I tossed it anyway.

If this were a movie, it could be a cinematic tour de force -- but this tale of fear and paranoia is just part of a parade of all-too-real horrors.

Many companies are pulling red round, plum, and Roma tomatoes following an FDA warning that some may be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Burger King (NYSE:BKC), and Kroger are among the major corporations using the "There's nothing wrong with our tomatoes, but better safe than sorry!" method, and ditching any tomatoes that could even come close to being of the offending variety. Even Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) (NYSE:CMG-B) got into the act and pulled its tomato salsa.

What's scarier than microbe-ridden sandwich toppings? The skyrocketing price of groceries. That's the true boogeyman in the bakery, the Dracula in the dairy aisle (bloodsucking fiend!), the Freddy Krueger in the frozen-foods freezer. I think Leatherface was manning the checkout the last time I shopped for groceries. When I glanced at my receipt, I definitely felt like I'd surrendered an arm and a leg.

There's something frightening in my fridge
Yesterday, things got even freakier, when I saw that floods in the midwestern U.S. have demolished some corn crops. Oh great! I thought. How Children of the Corn is that? Now corn prices are at new record highs. If some crazy kid starts yelling "Outlander!", I swear I'm heading for the hills.

Commodities, including corn, have already gone through the roof. And this price hike doesn't just extend to that corn on the cob you like so much, or the feed on which our livestock grazes. If you're the type who studies food labels, you've probably noticed how often corn (high fructose corn syrup) and soybeans (like soy lecithin) show up in all kinds of processed foods. Somehow, I can't imagine that ruined corn crops bode well for the costs of these common ingredients, not to mention popcorn, corn chips, cornbread, and -- talk about scary -- corn dogs. (Easy there, Cujo!)  

Meanwhile, I'll fight a genetically modified supermouse any day for the remnants of my hunk of $7 cheese. And if my eggs start frying on my counter, like they did in that one scene in Ghostbusters, I think I'll be more aggravated than frightened.

Of course, the real Sumerian demon in the fridge (who you gonna call?) can be the purchase of perishable goods. At these prices, you'd better get to gobbling like there's no post-apocalyptic tomorrow. When you've paid premium prices for a loaf of bread or a tray of strawberries, food that goes bad has really gone bad.

There's no such thing as inflation, silly!
The Fed's early response to the specter of inflation seemed laughable to many of us, as did many experts' contention that things weren't that bad for the American consumer. The Consumer Price Index's willful ignorance of energy and food reminds me of all those horror movies where the authorities refuse to believe anything's wrong, despite (usually) ridiculous amounts of evidence to the contrary. Don't be silly, kids, there's no such thing as inflation!

As my Foolish colleague Kristin Graham wrote yesterday, we finally seem to have reached the point where the problem is undeniable. It now seems that Ben Bernanke and his fellow Fed members are coming around to that reality. Whether they realize just how badly these inflationary monsters are wreaking havoc on American consumers' wallets is a whole different question.

We can only hope that the folks in charge of tinkering with monetary policy see how serious the current situation is, and start working to end the ongoing grocery-bill bloodbath. For now, though, anybody want to brave the Mall of the Dead? Count me out -- I can't spring for the popcorn.

Further frightful Foolishness: