By: Candess Zona-Mendola

In an outbreak that has left papaya lovers across the nation concerned, the distributor has finally issued a public, albeit limited, recall of the Yellow Maradol Papayas implicated as the source of the illnesses. The recall comes a month after the CDC notified the FDA about the confirmed link, and over a week after the MDH issued an advisory to its residents to avoid eating Caribeña brand yellow Maradol papayas.

The Caribeña brand Maradol papayas were tested by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) earlier this month. The testing yielded results of Salmonella Kiambu bacteria which was genetically similar to that of a cluster of illnesses reported in the state.  The results prompted the involvement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to commence joint investigations with the MDH and other state local health departments.

The case count of those who are ill has plateaued at 47 cases, but in the next few weeks, more cases may be linked. With a public recall now in place, there is hope that retailers can now remove the affected products from their shelves. This will greatly reduce the risk of additional illnesses linked to this particular outbreak.

The Recall

On July 26, 2017, the FDA reported that Grande Produce issued a press release to notify consumers that it initiated a limited recall of Caribeña brand Maradol papayas. These improted papayas from Mexico were distributed during the dates of July 10 to July 19, 2017. Despite the limited recall, the CDC and FDA advise consumers to avoid all Caribeña brand Maradol papayas.

The FDA announcement of the recall states:

“According to Grande Produce, a Maryland distribution center where the papayas were delivered has already notified retail customers to remove the recalled papayas from inventories, store shelves and the stream of commerce.  Recall effectiveness checks are already underway by Grande Produce.

The only papayas subject to the recall carry a “Caribeña” brand label on cartons and were shipped during the dates of July 10 to July 19.  No other papayas or fresh produce distributed by Grande Produce are subject to the recall.

Grande Produce has ceased importation of papayas from the grower and is taking all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its imported produce.  The company is also coordinating closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies in their investigations and will provide any assistance possible.”

Despite the limited recall, the company has been quick to inform the public that their environmental microbial testing of its facilities has showed negative test results for Salmonella bacteria.

Retailers! Get Those Papayas Off Your Shelves!

The CDC continues to recommend that restaurants not serve and retailers not sell ANY Maradol papayas from Mexico. According to their website:

“Based on the available evidence, CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers not sell Maradol papayas from Mexico. We also recommend not eating or selling Caribeña brand Maradol papayas imported from Mexico until we learn more about other possible brands that might be linked to this outbreak. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview them. Further investigation by FDA and regulatory officials is under way to determine the point in the supply chain where the papayas were contaminated. Updates will be provided when more information is available.”

But There May Be More Issues . . .

Despite the recall, consumers may not be completely safe just yet. The concern lies in the fact that the Caribeña brand distribution patterns cannot be linked to every case this outbreak. The FDA has noted that they suspect that Maradol papayas from other distributors may be contaminated too.

Also, the CDC is continuing to investigate additional test results of a Salmonella Thompson cluster of cases and if they are also related to this outbreak. Depending on their findings, it is likely that the case count will rise and more brands of papayas may be linked to the outbreak.

The FDA Issued Salmonella FAQs

The FDA created a helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions concerning this outbreak, as follows:

  • “What are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.”

  • “How Soon After Exposure do Symptoms Appear?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.”

  • “What are the Complications of Salmonella Infections?

In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.”

  • “Who is at Risk?

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

Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm568780.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm568562.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

https://health.maryland.gov/newsroom/Pages/State-urges-Marylanders-not-to-consume-Caribe%C3%B1a%E2%80%99s-yellow,-Maradol-papayas.aspx