Papayas from Mexico blamed for another Salmonella outbreak

For the sixth time in eight years, papayas grown in Mexico have been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are warning consumers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island to avoid eating any fresh papayas from Mexico until further notice.

No recall has been announced.

CDC reports 62 cases of Salmonella Uganda illnesses, including 23 hospitalizations, in eight states: Connecticut (14), Florida (1), Massachusetts (5), New Jersey (12), New York (24), Pennsylvania (4), Rhode Island (1), and Texas (1).

No deaths have been reported.

According to FDA, most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal.

Children younger than five, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe salmonellosis infections.

By the numbers

Epidemiological evidence gathered by CDC, and product distribution information obtained by FDA, point to papayas grown in Mexico and distributed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Just over one-half of the victims are female, and approximately two-thirds of those interviewed are of Hispanic ethnicity. Ages of outbreak victims range from one to 86 years.

Of those victims who were interviewed, 76% reported having eaten papaya in the week before becoming ill.

The Florida victim reported having traveled to Connecticut in the week before becoming ill. It is unknown at this time whether the Texas victim had traveled to one of the six states to which the papayas were shipped.

FDA has not yet identified a source or grower of the contaminated papayas.

History

This is the sixth in a series of Salmonella outbreaks linked to papayas grown in Mexico and imported into the USA in the last eight years.

In 2011, Mexican papayas contaminated with Salmonella Agona were the source of a 25-state outbreak that sickened 106 individuals, sending 10 of them to hospital.

In 2017, history repeated itself four-fold. A total of 251 individuals were infected with one of several different strains of Salmonella after eating Mexico-grown papayas. Seventy-eight of the outbreak victims were hospitalized and two people died.

If history is any guide, it is likely that the number of cases and hospitalizations in this outbreak will increase.

What should consumers do?

  • If you have purchased a papaya grown in Mexico, throw it away.
  • Do not eat fruit salads or other mixes that include papayas from Mexico.
  • If you aren’t sure the papaya you bought is from Mexico, you can ask the place of purchase. When in doubt, don’t eat the papaya. Throw it out.
  • Wash and sanitize places where papayas were stored: countertops and refrigerator drawers or shelves. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.

What should restaurants and retailers do?

In the event that restaurants, retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

  • Contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to a pathogen.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

 

 

Recalls and Alerts: August 31 – September 4, 2017

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

United States

Outbreak Alert: CDC is investigating a multistate outbreak of 37 human Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles. Outbreak cases have been reported from 13 states; 16 of the 37 victims have been hospitalized. Nearly one-third of the victims are children under 5 years of age.

Outbreak/Food Safety Alert (Update): CDC’s investigation of Salmonella infections linked to consumption of Maradol papayas from Mexico continues to expand with the identification of two more outbreaks. The consolidated number of cases has reached 201 victims in 23 states, with 65 hospitalizations and one death. In addition to Carica de Campeche, two more Mexican farms have been implicated in outbreak cases: Caraveo Produce and El Zapotanito.

Allergy Alert: Wakefern Food Corp. recalls ShopRite brand Semi-Sweet Real Chocolate Chips (24-oz bags; Best if Used By dates of April 11, 2019 and April 12, 2019; UPC 041190 02668) due to undeclared milk. The recalled product was sold in ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer and other retail stores located throughout the Northeast.

Canada

Allergy Alert: Summer Star Trading Co. Ltd. recalls Ziranwei brand dried and preserved products due to undeclared sulphites. Please refer to the recall notice for a detailed list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall: The British Columbia Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) warns consumers that Hepatitis A virus has been detected in a sample of Western Family brand fresh pineapple chunks (7-oz ready-to-go cups; Produced August 11, 2017; Best before August 19, 2017; Product of Costa Rica). The recalled product was distributed to 38 Save-On-Foods, Overwaitea Foods and PriceSmart Foods stores in BC. Please refer to the BCCDC notice for a complete list of stores where the product was sold.

Food Safety Recall: Industry recalls Shore Lunch brand Fish Breading/Batter Mix – Cajun Style (255g; Product code 1064828; Best by 1/18/2018; UPC 0 24739 19363 5) and Shore Lunch brand Fish Breading/Batter Mix – Original Recipe (255g; Product code  1064839; Best by 1/17/2018; UPC 0 24739 19362 8) due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall: Gastronomie Nature (3935299 Canada Inc.) recalls Schnitzer brand Baguette Classic (2 x 180g; Product code 30118; UPC 4 022993 045628) due to pieces of plastic.

Europe

Allergy Alert (UK): Asda recalls ASDA Classic Fish Pie (800g; Best before 07 Sept 2017) due to undeclared mustard.

Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Upignac recalls Delhaize brand Raw breast of duck (approx 400g; vacuum packed; Lot #20170107; Use by 05/09/2017) due to contamination with shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): Leis GmbH recalls Dried Dill / Dillspitzen, getrocknet (50g; Expiry date 10.11.2017; Lot #L4647) due to contamination with Salmonella and Enterobacteriaceae.

Food Safety Recall (Luxembourg): Industry recalls Schnitzer brand Glutenfreies Bio Maisbaguette zum Aufbacken (2 x 180g; Lot #30118; Expiry 03.01.2018; Product of Germany) due to possible presence of pieces of plastic.

Food Safety Recall (UK): TRS Wholesale Ltd recalls TRS Whole Chillies Extra Hot (50g; Best before 28 February 2019; Batch code P170221) due to elevated aflatoxin levels.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Myprotein recalls a number of products due to potential Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Safety Recall (UK): Athole Tablet Ltd recalls Scots Tablet (2.268Kg Jars; Best before 19/2/18 – 24/2/18; Batch codes 171920P1-4, 172221P1-8, 172321P1-5, 172421P1-4, 172521P1-4) and Iron Broo Tablet (2.268Kg Jars; Best before 22/2/18 – 25/2/18; Batch codes 172321P6-8 and 172621P1-4) due to potential contamination with small pieces of metal.

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

Food Safety Recall (Israel): AMST recalls Smoked Salmon filets due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for details.

Australia and New Zealand

Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Importers recall Chuan Qi Hot Pot Sauce (All sizes, batch codes, dates and flavors) due to undeclared peanuts, gluten, soy, sesame, crustacea and fish.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): Rafferty’s Garden recalls Rafferty’s Garden Happy Tummies Vegetable Risotto (Best before 10 Aug 2018 and 12 Aug 2018) due to possible contamination with pieces of glass.

Food Safety Recall (New Zealand): Go Farming Ltd recalls Go 2 Raw Milk brand raw (unpasteurised) drinking milk (1L glass bottles; Batch 32, 33, and 34; Use by 18 August 2017, 20 August 2017, and 21 August 2017) due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled product is sold online and is collected at the farm or delivered within the Southland and Queenstown regions.

 

Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket’s recall website.

*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains
**Includes Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs and Pak N’ Save.

Papaya pathogen problems persist

Little appears to have changed since 2011 outbreak, despite efforts of U.S., Mexican governments

The CDC posted this photo with its outbreak notice, describing maradol papayas as large, oval fruits that weigh 3 or more pounds, with green skins that turn yellow when the fruit is ripe. The flesh inside the fruit is salmon-colored. Photo courtesy of CDC

Salmonella — the pathogen behind an ongoing foodborne illness outbreak that has sickened 173 people across 21 states, killing one — is a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tract of many birds, reptiles and mammals.

The possibility that an agricultural product such as papayas may be contaminated with Salmonella is impossible to eradicate; however, the risk of widespread contamination can be controlled through careful attention to current best sanitary practices in the cultivation, harvesting and packing of raw produce. Failure to do so can result in a vicious cycle of contamination in fields, packing houses and the distribution system.

Cultivation, harvesting and packing
The papaya is a fast-growing, tree-like herbaceous plant, which is at home in tropical and semi-tropical climates and is cultivated extensively across southeastern Mexico, according to a report issued by the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service. The most recent report from Mexico’s Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food) shows Mexico to be the fifth largest producer of papayas in the world.

Papaya trees are propagated from seeds. When seedlings are large enough, they are transplanted by hand into growing fields.

The papaya plant is propagated from seeds, with seedlings transplanted into fields when they are of sufficient size. The plant matures in six to nine months in warmer regions. Susceptible to a variety of plant diseases and pests, such as root rot, powdery mildew, papaya ringspot virus, fruit fly and white fly, papaya plants usually have an abbreviated commercial lifespan of two to three years, according to information from the University of Hawaii. It is not unusual for a papaya plant to only produce a single crop in its lifetime.

Once harvested and delivered to the packing house, each papaya is graded according to ripeness and size. Next, the fruit is sorted according to size a second time, as well as shape, and color. It is also examined for insect or mechanical damage.

The sorted fruit is generally washed in large vats of chlorinated tap water to remove dirt, debris and insect contamination. Depending upon the condition of the fruit and the expected final destination, it may be subjected to additional treatments, including a hot water bath or a fungicide dip. After air-drying, the fruit is packed for shipment.

2011 Salmonella Agona outbreak
In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration investigated a Salmonella Agona outbreak that was traced to contaminated papayas imported from Mexico. The papayas were grown and packed by Agromod SA de CV of Chiapas, Mexico, and distributed by Agromod Produce Inc. of McAllen, Texas.

Photo illustration

The Agromod papaya plantation had an interconnected drainage ditch system, according to information presented in 2013 during the annual educational conference of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).

The marsh-like environment of the drainage ditches was a haven for waterfowl, frogs and other wildlife, and provided perfect growth conditions for pathogenic bacteria. During heavy rain and flooding, the ditches overflowed into the soil surrounding the trees, impregnating the soil with pathogens from the water.

During an on-site inspection of Agromod’s plantation and packing house, investigators from FDA recovered a full two dozen different types of Salmonella, including the Salmonella Agona outbreak strain. Salmonella-positive samples were drawn from fields where the papaya grew and from packing-house drains.

The crops at Agromod were harvested by two-person teams. One person worked at tree level, picking fruit and handing or tossing it to the other person below. The second person laid each papaya onto a piece of poly foam on the unprotected soil. The foam was wrapped around the fruit, which was loaded into foam-lined bins for transport to the packing house.

It was common practice at Agromod for the sheets of poly foam to be reused for up to 15 days before being discarded, helping to spread contamination from the fields to the fruit, packing house and back again.

Photo illustration

Once in the packing house, the fruit was washed in large vats of water. The level of chlorine in the wash water was not properly monitored or controlled, allowing Salmonella to spread throughout an entire batch of papayas.

The wash water was discharged into the drainage ditch system, returning Salmonella to the fields in a vicious cycle of contamination.

Import Alert
In response to the extent of Salmonella contamination brought to light during the investigation of the 2011 outbreak, FDA instituted Import Alert #21-17, “Countrywide Detention Without Physical Examination Of Papaya From Mexico.” Firms that provided documentation of five consecutive Salmonella-negative commercial shipments qualified for an exemption from the automatic detention at the U.S. border.

Concurrent with FDA’s initiation of the Import Alert, Mexico’s Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (National Service for Health, Safety and Agrifood Quality) (SENASICA ) unveiled a plan to assist that country’s papaya growers, packers and shippers in addressing the issues of safe growing and handling of the fruit.

History repeats
Notwithstanding the efforts of multiple agencies in both countries, the United States is once again in the throes of an outbreak of Salmonella that is associated with consumption of fresh, whole papayas imported from Mexico.

To view a larger version of the map on the CDC’s website, please click on the image.

As of Aug. 18 when the CDC posted it’s most recent outbreak update, 173 people had been confirmed sick across 21 states, with 58 hospitalizations, and one death on New York City. The CDC warns that the number of confirmed illnesses is likely to increase.

Thus far FDA has identified one farm in connection with the contaminated papaya. That farm, Carica de Campeche, has been supplying papayas to the U.S. market under an Import Alert exemption since 2015.

According to a spokesperson from FDA, at present there are no specific ongoing testing or inspection requirements that a producer must meet in order to maintain an exemption from automatic detention, although a firm is expected to “… continue to provide the commodity in a wholesome manner and follow all the regulatory requirements of FDA.”

The FDA revoked the exemption granted to Carica de Campeche under Import Alert 21-17 on Aug. 7.

This article first appeared in Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission.