Papayas cited in 23-state Salmonella outbreak

Jul 25, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Papayas imported from Mexico are the likely source of a Salmonella outbreak involving 97 cases in 23 states, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today.

The outbreak investigation has prompted Agromod Produce, Inc., a distributor in McAllen, Tex., to recall all its fresh, whole papayas, which were distributed nationwide and in Canada through retail stores and wholesalers, according to the FDA and a company recall notice.

The FDA said it found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agona in two papaya samples—one collected at Agromod Produce in McAllen and one collected at a US border station and bound for Agromod.

"Epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback information identifies papayas from Mexico imported through Agromod Produce, Inc. as a likely source of infection," the FDA said in a press release.

Agromod is recalling all papayas sold before Jul 23 under the names Blondie, Yaya, Mananita, and Tastylicious, the company recall notice said. The FDA advised consumers and retailers who have the papayas to throw them away in sealed containers so people and animals can't eat them.

The 97 Salmonella cases include 10 hospitalizations but no deaths, the FDA reported. The cases were reported between Jan 1 and Jul 18. Patients have ranged in age from less than 1 year to 91 years, with 41% of them under age 5. Sixty-three percent are female.

The FDA said it is taking action to keep contaminated papayas out of the United States, including increasing the sampling of imported papayas. Besides the two samples that tested positive for the outbreak strain, 10 other samples from Mexico have tested positive for other strains of Salmonella. None of the sampled lots entered the country, the agency said.

States reporting the most cases in the outbreak are Texas with 25 and Illinois with 17; no other state has reported more than 8 cases.

Quick searches of the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web sites suggest that foodborne disease outbreaks linked to fresh papayas have been rare or unknown in the United States, with none identified in recent years.

However, a Salmonella Litchfield outbreak in Australia in 2006-07 was linked to papayas, according to a May 2009 report in the Journal of Food Protection. The outbreak strain was found in some papaya samples collected at stores in Western Australia.

See also:

Jul 25 FDA press release

Agromod recall notice on FDA site

May 2009 J Food Protection abstract

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