Mexican government dismisses as ‘premature’ CDC’s link of Salmonella outbreak to imported papayas

In a July 1, 2019 news release, El Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria de Mexico / The National Service of Health, Safety and Agri-Food Quality (Senasica) has described as “premature” CDC’s June 28, 2019 report of a link between Mexican papayas and a current outbreak of Salmonella Uganda illnesses.

Senasica points out that the outbreak strain has not been recovered from a papaya sample, nor has Salmonella Uganda been isolated from papayas in Mexico.

According to Senasica, until the outbreak strain has been found in a papaya sample, Mexico does not consider CDC’s findings to be conclusive.

The outbreak under investigation comprises 62 illnesses in eight US states: Connecticut (14), Florida (1), Massachusetts (5), New Jersey (12), New York (24), Pennsylvania (4), Rhode Island (1), Texas (1). Twenty-three people have been hospitalized.

Two people who lived in different households got sick in Connecticut after eating papayas purchased from the same grocery store location in the week before becoming ill.

According to CDC, epidemiological evidence, including interviews conducted with some of the outbreak victims, points to papayas as the source of the outbreak.

FDA is conducting a traceback investigation to establish the source of the papayas. Early product distribution information indicates that they were imported from Mexico.

Senasica’s official response to CDC’s report is reminiscent of the initial Mexican response to the 2011 outbreak of Salmonella Agona illnesses caused by contaminated papayas imported from Mexico.

Back then, Mexico vehemently denied responsibility for the outbreak, even after FDA found the outbreak strain in samples of the imported papayas.

What will it take for Senasica to acknowledge reality?

And, what will it take for FDA to impose a complete embargo on the importation of papayas from Mexico?

What consumers should 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 restaurants and retailers should 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.