By Alice Vo Edwards

The CDC is reporting a multistate outbreak of salmonella that has been linked to consumers eating coconut. According to the CDC, the outbreak has been linked to a brand of frozen coconut, Coconut Tree, distributed by Evershing International Trading Company.

At this point, most of those affected seem to have contracted salmonella after drinking Asian style drinks that were made with coconut tree brand shredded or raw coconut in restaurants.

Who is affected by this outbreak of Salmonella?

As of January 16, 2018, 25 people have been confirmed as affected and 6 have been hospitalized. Cases have been all reported all across the continental United States, in California, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington. Additionally, one case has been reported in Canada.

Why does the CDC think that coconut is the cause of this outbreak?

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) traced the recent outbreak back to frozen the Coconut Tree brand of frozen shredded coconut, leading to the FDA and distributor, Evershing International Trading Company, to issue a recall. In addition to the states where cases have been reported, the product was distributed in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Florida, and Texas.

Massachusetts was the first to identify the cause of the outbreak due to their diligence in identifying where the Salmonella may have originated from, based on interviews they conducted with people who were ill. Officials visited a restaurant in Boston where the outbreak in Massachusetts originated, collected samples, and identified that an unopened packaged of raw frozen coconut tested positive for Salmonella.

What to do about this Salmonella outbreak:

 If you live in any of the following states where the shredded coconut was distributed, take extra care about eating coconut: Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, and Texas.

If you have purchased frozen shredded coconut from the brand coconut tree, check the date on the package to ensure that it is not part of the affected group of frozen shredded coconut that may contain salmonella. A recall notice has been posted so you can return affected packages of coconut tree brand frozen shredded coconut to the store where you purchased it.

If you live in any of the states where the Salmonella-infected coconut was distributed and you eat out, you may want to avoid eating products that could contain frozen shredded coconut unless the restaurant is able to confirm for you that they are not using coconut tree brand shredded coconut.

It is possible that some restaurants may not realize that they have potential he infected products in their stores and they continue to unintentionally service salmonella infected frozen shredded coconut in their drinks or desserts.

You should be extremely careful about eating or drinking foods made with coconut in restaurants unless they confirm that they are aware of the recall and have returned or disposed of any potentially infected coconut. If you are not 100% sure, it is better to avoid uncooked coconut in restaurants, as often the waiters and waitresses may not truly know what brands are used in their products and food is often not stored in its original containers. There could be additional risk if frozen product was transferred from its original packaging to new packaging and not sanitized after disposing of prior batches.

The CDC suggests that if you are not sure if your coconut might be related to the Coconut Tree Brand Coconut Shredded Coconut, to throw it out and not eat, sell, or serve it. For restaurants, the CDC is also recommending they be extra-diligent in sanitary processes related to cleaning areas that may have come in contact to potentially infected coconut including countertops, drawers, shelves, freezers, refrigerators, or containers that may have been used to store the coconut.

Per-State Resources For Dealing with Questions About Salmonella and this Coconut-Related Salmonella outbreak

 Some states, such as Massachusetts, have established hotlines you can call specifically for outbreaks. To check for your local hotline, look for Public Health Epidemiology Program Hotlines, or public health departments for your local area. Some known contacts for public health in the states affected are included here, though you may need to call and ask what the local contact is for your county.

 California

 Per county public health departments should be contacted, but general information can be directed to the California department of public health, (916) 558-1784.

Florida

Florida Department of Health – 820-245-4444.

Illinois

Illinois Department of Public Health – 800-547-0466.

 Massachusetts

 Department of Public Health 24-Hour Epidemiology Program Hotline – 617-983-6800.

Michigan

Michigan Public Health Emergencies – 517-335-9030. Or Use the MDHHS website to find a local office.

New Jersey

New Jersey Office of Local Public Health – 609-292-4993. Call to find your local office.

New York

 

District Counties Served Address Telephone
Canton St. Lawrence 58 Gouverneur Street, Canton 13617-3200 (315) 386-1040
Geneva Ontario, Wayne, Yates 624 Pre Emption Road, Geneva 14456-1334 (315) 789-3030
Glens Falls Saratoga, Warren, Washington 77 Mohican Street, Glens Falls 12801-4429 (518) 793-3893
Herkimer Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery 5665 State Route 5, Herkimer 13350-9721 (315) 866-6879
Hornell Schuyler, Steuben 107 Broadway, Room 105, Hornell 14843-0430 (607) 324-8371
Monticello Sullivan 50 North Street, Suite 2, Monticello 12701-1711 (845) 794-2045
Oneonta Delaware, Greene, Otsego 28 Hill Street, Suite 201, Oneonta 13820-9804 (607) 432-3911
Saranac Lake Essex, Franklin, Hamilton 41 St. Bernard Street, Saranac Lake 12983-1839 (518) 891-1800
Watertown Jefferson, Lewis Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington Street, Watertown 13601-3741 (315) 785-2277

*Table retrieved from https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/distphn.htm

Ohio

 Ohio Department of Health – 614-466-2531

Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Department of Health – 405-271-5600

 Oregon

 Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division – 971-673-1222

Oregon Public Health Division – 503-655-8887

Pennsylvania

 Pennsylvania Department of Health – 717-787-8092

Texas

Public Health Department – 817-264-4500

 Washington

Washington State Department of Health – 800-525-0127

What is Salmonella and How Do I Know If I am infected?

 Salmonella is a bacteria that causes infection in both people and animals. Usually Salmonella is found in the gut, but can be found in other areas of the body as well including the blood or bone. It can cause serious health problems, especially in people with poor immune systems, infants, or older individuals, and can require hospitalization for severe cases.

Common symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, and nausea. Some people also experience vomiting and may attribute illness to either food poisoning or a flu bug. If you have eaten anything that may have had contaminated coconut in it and suspect you may be dealing with Salmonella, check with your doctor immediately.

 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/coconut-01-18/index.html

https://www.mass.gov/news/department-of-public-health-discovers-rare-salmonella-strain-that-leads-to-fdas-multistate