By: Pooja Sharma
A week after the CDC and FDA linked Carabena brand yellow Maradol papayas to the Papaya Salmonella outbreak, a new notification has arisen. The CDC confirmed the Salmonella Thompson and Salmonella Kiambu strains have taken a toll on 109 confirmed cases. This almost doubles the number of affected individuals, CDC previously reported. Papayas harvested from a Mexican Papaya farm have been linked to this deadly outbreak that has already taken the life of 1 in New York and hospitalized several others. Carabena and Cavi brand papayas have now been recalled by Grande Produce and Agroson’s LLC distribution companies. The second of these recalls occurred late yesterday.
The latest CDC notice identified 6 more states that are additional entries in the outbreak. They are: Connecticut, Michigan, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Delaware. Cases in these cities are around 1-2 with Connecticut case counts reaching to 4. The cities most affected in these new numbers of the outbreak are New York and New Jersey, with 36 and 26 sickened respectively in each state. Also, 64 more people are added to the investigation case count list since the initial outbreak launched on July 21, 2017. Hospitalizations have increased by 23. The hospitalization rate is around 46% based on the current data and available information. The rate is quite high, which means that the two strains of bacteria can severely affect people who are already more prone to infection. These people include children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune system.
Links to the Outbreak Source
The first warning to avoid all Carabena brand papayas was issued when the initial announcement on the outbreaks was launched. Despite only one brand link, the CDC advised (and continues to advise) that everyone avoid eating any yellow Maradol papayas, regardless of brand. The CDC, FDA, and public health officials are still seeking and compiling a complete list of different brands of Papayas that may need to be recalled. All evidence (laboratory and epidemiologic) has pointed out that the outbreak is a result of the Maradol papayas that are imported from Mexico. FDA tested some other papayas imported from Mexico from the farm implicated, Carica de Campeche, and found other strains of Salmonella that include: Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Gaminara, and Salmonella Senftenberg.
FDA’s Plan of Action
FDA has increased its testing on all the brands of papayas that are imported from Mexico. Since 2011, Papayas from Mexico have not been imported and allowed to enter the country unless they are documented (i.e. they have tested negative for any foodborne diseases/infections.) Farms and companies who export to the USA need to have at least 5 consecutive shipments test negative for Salmonella to add to the green list of IA 21-17, according to terms set by FDA. Similarly, any farms or companies who want to get removed from the Red list and wish to get added back to the Green list must provide concrete documentation on how they prevent contamination. The documents should also include a root cause analysis that identifies potential sources and root causes of food contamination.
What are the sources that are found until now?
Until now, one company named Grande Produce that has been linked to this outbreak since the start recalled its Carabena Brand Maradol papayas. These papayas were distributed across the country between July 10, 2017 – July 19, 2017. Grande Produce based in San Juan, Texas distributed these Maradol papayas in Maryland and several other states.
More papayas imported from Mexico were tested and some of them tested positive for Salmonella. On Friday morning, FDA named Carica de Campeche farm’s papayas to test positive for Salmonella Kiambu, Salmonella Thompson, Salmonella Gaminara, Salmonella Agona and Salmonella Senftenberg. Finally, there is a source that has been linked by FDA. Agroson’s LLC, a distributor in New York also recalled Cavi brand Maradol papayas. The recall included 2483 boxes of Maradol Papayas as a precaution. These papayas were grown and packed on the same farm as Grande produce which is Carica de Campeche. The recall was issued on Friday night. The New York distributors shipped these imported Maradol papayas to wholesalers and retailers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. New York and New Jersey are the most affected state and hopefully, they will breathe a sigh of relief after so long. These papayas were distributed from July 16 – July 19 and were available for sale from July 31. Consumers or retailers can easily identify the papayas by PLU stickers that have “Cavi MEXICO 4395” written on it.
All wholesale customers have been notified of both the recalls and they have been notified to remove the recalled papayas from the inventory, shelves or any other venue where a customer can find it.
One source is now being found and the investigators are constantly in touch with other distributors. They will have additional information to share with the public in a few days.
How to Identify Maradol Papayas and Protect Yourself?
Maradol papayas are large, oval fruit that generally weighs 3 pounds or more. They have green skin on the outside, which turns yellow when ripe. The flesh inside of the fruit is salmon colored.
If you come across a papaya that looks like a Maradol one, check the labels it would definitely say if the papaya is Carabena or Cavi brand or not or if it’s imported from Mexico.
If you still are not sure if the Papaya is Carabena brand or imported from Mexico, then ask the supplier or your retailer. Also, if you have any dish at a restaurant that serves papaya in their food like a smoothie or a fruit salad, make sure that you ask them about the source/supplier of Papaya. Tell them your concerns and why it’s important to not serve Maradol papayas. A lot of people are still not aware of the outbreak.
Salmonella causes one million illnesses in the US each year. Even though it usually isn’t life threatening, it can harm several people more than others like those with impaired immune function, children, the elderly, etc. Look for common symptoms of Salmonella such as bowel disorder, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. It usually takes about 48-72 hours for the symptoms to develop and the infection can last for anywhere between 4-7 days. Salmonella can cause severe dehydration, bacteremia and reactive arthritis (in some cases). Most people recover without treatment. But, it’s still necessary to consult a doctor considering the number of hospitalizations that have already happened in this outbreak.