By: James Peacock
The outbreak of two separate strains of Salmonella linked to papaya from Mexico has caused a third recall. The outbreak has currently, as of August 4, has sickened 109 people in 16 different states. The states affected by the outbreak at this point include New York with 36 cases, Connecticut with 4 cases, Delaware with 1 case, Iowa with 2 cases, Kentucky with 2 cases, Louisiana with 1 case, Maryland with 6 cases, Massachusetts with 3 cases, Michigan with 1 case, Minnesota with 4 cases, North Carolina with 2 cases, New Jersey with 26 cases, Oklahoma with 2 cases, Pennsylvania with 7 cases, Virginia with 11 cases, and Wisconsin with 1 case. There has been one death reported in New York. Thirty-five people have been hospitalized because of the outbreak. The outbreak started as being caused by the Salmonella strain Kiambu. Later updates added illnesses caused by papaya contaminated with a different Salmonella strain, Thompson. Testing has revealed that some papayas contain both of the outbreak strains. Other papayas imported from Mexico were tested by the FDA, who found Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Kiambu, Salmonella Gaminara, Salmonella Thompson, and Salmonella Senftenberg in various samples.
The investigation uncovered that Salmonella in Caribeña brand papayas were closely related with Salmonella strains found in ill individuals. The Caribeña papayas were traced back to a farm in Mexico called Carica de Campeche. Caribeña eventually issued a recall for the contaminated papaya, but it was soon joined by Agroson’s. On August 4, Agroson’s issued a recall for Cavi brand papaya. That recall, though no cases of illness have been linked to those papayas, came at the urging of the FDA. The FDA has recommended that any company who imported papaya from Carica de Campeche should issue a recall for them regardless of any confirmed Salmonella contamination.
This advice was not only heeded by Agroson’s, because on August 7 Freshtex Produce also issued a recall for Maradol papayas that were grown by Carica de Campeche. The papaya brand under recall is “Valery”. Recalled papayas were distributed from July 10 to July 13 in the state of Illinois. After being distributed to various locations in Illinois, it is possible for the papayas to have been sent elsewhere. No other Freshtex Produce products have been recalled. Freshtex has also ceased importing papayas from Carica de Campeche.
Carica de Campeche supplies a few different companies with papayas. However, it appears that their biggest customer is Caribe Produce. Caribe Produce was implicated in a previous papaya-related recall in 2012. They issued a recall on May 17, 2012 for 286 cases of Maradol Papaya after concerns arose that they were contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Interestingly, the specific brand of papaya subject to recall in 2012 was Caribeña, which is the brand that has been tied to the current outbreak. Further, Caribe Produce Ltd Co and Grande Produce, who initiated the current recall, are owned by the same people, the Cano family.
Salmonella infections, commonly referred to as Salmonellosis, make up one of the most common forms of foodborne illness in the United States. The CDC estimates that 1.2 million cases of Salmonella poisoning occur each year. This estimate does include the fact that many Salmonella cases go unreported and undiagnosed. The tracking of Salmonellosis first took place in 1962, but scientists have been aware of the bacterium for at least the last 125 years. The work of Dr. Salmon and Theobald Smith, his assistant, isolated Salmonella bacteria just 30 years after the acceptance of germ theory. Since that time, the bacteria that make up the Salmonella enterica species have been found to have a variety of strains, or serotypes. These serotypes are based on the various antigens found on the surface and flagella of the bacteria. At the first usage of this method of categorization, 44 different serotypes had been identified. Today there are more than 2000 known serotypes of Salmonella bacteria, but most of them are uncommon sources of foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections are usually caused by Salmonella serotypes Enteritidis, Typhimurium, Newport, javiana, Heidelberg, I 4,, 12:i:-, Muenchen, Montevideo, and Saintpaul, but other strains are capable of causing individual illnesses and will occasionally cause outbreaks.
Out of the CDC estimated 1.2 million annual cases of illness, about 19,000 of them require hospitalization, and about 450 deaths occur annually. While there are actually two distinct types of illness that can be caused by Salmonella bacteria, nontyphoidal salmonellosis and typhoid fever, nontyphoidal salmonellosis is by far the more common type. In fact, there has not been an outbreak of typhoid fever caused by Salmonella since 1999. Salmonellosis will usually produce symptoms within a 6 to 72 hour window after exposure to the bacteria. The symptoms produced by salmonellosis will generally include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Recovery from a case of Salmonella poisoning will typically start after about a day, but symptoms can last for up to a week. There is a chance that the infection will worsen and cause one of several complications. The most common of these complications is dehydration. Severe dehydration can potentially be very serious, and will often cause hospitalization to be required. Other potential complications may include reactive arthritis and septicemia, also known as blood poisoning. While both of these complications are very serious, they are much less common than dehydration. Those with certain risk factors, including the elderly, children, and others with suppressed immune systems are at an increased risk of developing a more serious case of Salmonellosis. These risk factors also heighten the chance that one of the many complications associated with Salmonella poisoning will occur. Salmonella bacteria can be found in a wide variety of foods and drinks, so it is important to practice proper food safety techniques in order to reduce the chance of infection. Salmonella has been known to cause outbreaks through meats, poultry, eggs, fish, yeast, shrimp, milk, dairy products, spices, coconut, raw egg, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, and chocolate. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of Salmonella poisoning, contact a medical professional.