By: Heather Williams

The Maradol papaya Salmonella outbreak widens with another separate outbreak being linked to Maradol Papayas. This is one of four outbreaks currently under investigation associated with imported Maradol papayas.

The Salmonella strain, Salmonella Urbana, with a unique DNA fingerprint has infected 7 people over 3 states including: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Four have been hospitalized so far and no deaths have been reported with this particular Salmonella outbreak.  Illness in these cases started from July 23, 2017 to August 14, 2017.

The same strain that has infected those 7 people has been identified as matching samples from the Maradol papayas from the El Zapotanito farm in La Huerta, Mexico.  This is the fourth farm indicated in this multi-outbreak.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning

The CDC is warning consumers to not eat Maradol papayas from the farm El Zapotanito.  Restaurants should not serve and retailers should not sell Maradol papayas from El Zapotanito farm in La Huerta, Mexico.

If you are not sure whether the papaya you have purchased is a Maradol papaya from this farm or another farm in one of the other three outbreaks, ask the place of purchase if the papaya is from that farm.  Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers for that information as well.  If in doubt, do not eat, sell, or serve the potentially contaminated papayas.  Your safest bet is to throw it out.

Be sure to sanitize countertops and drawers and shelves in refrigerators where the Maradol papayas were stored.

Growing Concern

These outbreaks are each linked to different farms and different strains of Salmonella.  The greater concern is that because more and more farms are popping up positive with Salmonella there may be more farms in Mexico which could be importing Maradol papayas which might be contaminated with this infectious bacteria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing the testing process for papayas imported from Mexico for Salmonella.  Investigations are ongoing to determine if additional warnings are needed beyond the current advice of warning consumers to not eat papayas from the specific farms indicated.  The CDC will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.  Refer to web posting at https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/outbreaks-active.html for the most updated information on Salmonella outbreaks linked to Maradol papayas.

Other Papaya Salmonella Outbreaks

The CDC and FDA are continuing to investigate 3 other outbreaks linked to 3 different farms.  The Outbreaks are separated by origin and strain of Salmonella present in the papayas that are linked back to infected individuals.  DNA fingerprinting allows investigators to link each illness with matching Salmonella strains from each farm.

The original outbreak involving the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico has linked four different strains to Maradol papayas imported from that farm.  Salmonella Thompson, Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Kiambu, and Salmonella Gaminara have been indicated.  The current case count is up to 210 sick individuals with 67 that have been hospitalized.  So far there has been one death in New York City, New York.  There are 24 states included in this outbreak, including: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The majority of the cases have been from the state of New York.

Another outbreak involving the importer Bravo Produce Inc. of San Ysidro, California has been indicated as a source.  The Maradol papayas packed by Frutas Selectas de Tijuana, S. de RL de CV have been issued a recall.  The Salmonella strain, Salmonella Anatum, found in those imported papayas have been linked to 14 cases with 5 that have been hospitalized.  So far, no deaths have been reported.  There are 3 states involved in this outbreak including: Arizona, California, and Colorado. The majority of the cases have been from the state of California.

A more recent outbreak involving the imported Maradol papayas from the Rancho El Ganadero farm that is distributed by Caraveo Produce in Mexico has been indicated as a source. The Salmonella strains, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Infantis found in those imported papayas has been linked to 4 cases with 2 that have been hospitalized.  So far, no deaths have been reported.  There have been 4 states involved in this outbreak with one person ill from each state, including: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York.

Where is the Salmonella Coming From?

Some situations are outside of the farms’ control.  What happens once the produce leaves the farm and transfers to the hands of the distribution company, then the retailer, and finally the consumer is out of the farms’ reach.  However, farms can take a few simple steps to ensure contamination of crops does not occur at the initial step.  Their farm.  Farms can pay close attention to site selection, manage irrigation water more safely, and implement field management and handling procedures to reduce risk of crop contamination that leads to life-threatening outbreaks.

Site Selection

Before deciding on a spot to grow the crops, the land should be inspected.  The land should be inspected for microbial presence, particularly if there has been previous instances of contamination, as well as soil fertility.  It is tempting to use manure to increase soil fertility because it is cheap and very effective, it has an increased risk of introducing Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella into the environment.  To minimize the risk of contamination, the manure should be aged and composted to kill the harmful pathogens.  This compost should be added early in the process and prior to planting food crops if possible.  It is recommended that manure compost should be added to the soil at least 90 or 120 days prior to harvest.  Additionally, food producing crop plots should be upwind and upstream of animal waste, contaminated water, and other contaminates to ensure that there is no incidental cross-contamination.

Irrigation Water

Safe selection of irrigation water is another important component of minimizing contamination risk.  Contaminated water applied to the fruit will contaminate the crops, and anything that comes in contact with the harvested produce even after it leaves the farm.  Only potable drinking water should be used to irrigate crops.  The irrigation sources should be tested regularly for contaminants and action should be immediate if a pathogen is identified.

Field Management

Managing the crop field is another way to minimize contamination risk.  Staying out of wet fields will help reduce tracking any potential contaminant from one area to another.  Be sure field soil is removed from products and harvesting bins before moving them to the next step in the process, (e.g. sorting, packing, etc.).  Protect the crop land from animals, including pets and wild animals that might either contaminate the crops or spread potential contamination from one area to another.  Farm equipment and harvesting tools should be cleaned and sanitized as needed.

Handling

Hygiene methods using soap and warm water for workers should be implemented.  The farm should institute hand-washing procedures before and after working in the field.  Hand-wash stations and restroom facilities should be made available for workers.

Taking a few extra steps could reduce the risk of contamination at the source.  These are just a few ideas that could be implemented to minimize contamination.  With the increase in occurrence and multiple sources, eventually something must be done to mitigate additional outbreaks.  Currently, the FDA is supervising the testing of all shipments of papaya imported from Mexico, but more data is coming that demonstrates that the damage has already been done for some unlucky people.

It is up to the consumer to do their part once the product is in their hands to ensure the fruit is washed thoroughly prior to consumption to add addition protection from illness.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/urbana-09-17/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/urbana-09-17/map.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/outbreaks-active.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/kiambu-07-17/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/kiambu-07-17/map.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/anatum-9-17/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/anatum-9-17/map.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/newport-09-17/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/newport-09-17/map.html

http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/spg08handling