Report: Papayas Imported From Mexico Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in 8 States

By Shelbi Malonson

Fresh papaya imported from Mexico and sold in six US states has reportedly sickened dozens of people across the United States with a strain of Salmonella uganda, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far, the outbreak has infected 62 people and hospitalized 23 in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, according to a statement from the CDC.

There have been no reported fatalities attributed to Salmonella.

The outbreaks began in January and have continued through June, with most illnesses having occurred in April, according to the report.

Some cases of the infection may not yet be known because it takes on average of 2 to 4 weeks from the time someone becomes ill to when they report the case.

So far, early product distribution and interviews with those infected indicate that whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico and sold in the six states are a likely source of the outbreak.

CDC said the investigation is ongoing.

As a preventative measure, the agency has issued a warning against consuming the fruit.

“Consumers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island who have whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico in their homes should not eat them. Throw the papayas away, even if some of them were eaten and no one has gotten sick,” the CDC said.

The FDA is strongly advising all importers, suppliers and distributors of papayas, as well as restaurants, grocery stores, and other food service providers hold papayas imported from Mexico.

Pre-cut fruit salads containing papaya from Mexico should also be avoided. If you aren’t sure where the papaya came from, ask the retailer, the statement said.

“When in doubt, don’t eat the papaya. Throw it out.”

Freshly cut papaya. (Steve Buissinne/Pixabay)

How to Clean your Refrigerator After a Food Recall

According to the CDC website, refrigerators and countertops that have had contact with recalled food should thoroughly cleansed following five steps, starting with placing the recalled food in a sealed bag in the garbage and washing any reusable containers where the food was stored with hot, soapy water. 

Refrigerators should be emptied of food and all removable parts. Those parts should then be cleans with hot, soapy water, along with the fridge’s interior. Food packages and containers should also be wiped down.

Optionally, a diluted bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water) can be used for further sanitization inside the fridge. Removable parts and food can then be returned into the clean refrigerator. 

The agency advised the public to wipe down and sanitize countertops and containers that held papayas imported from Mexico, to wash any towels used to dry the refrigerators after cleaning, and to wash their hands with soap and water after cleaning.  

Symptoms of Salmonella Infection

About 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to salmonella bacteria, symptoms usually being to appear, with most people experiencing diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Generally, the illness lasts for four to seven days, and the majority of people do not require medical treatment in order to recover, according to the CDC report.

“In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized,” the report said. “Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.” 

Pregnant women, adults age 65 and older, and children younger than 5 years old, and people with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to severe illness or symptoms, according to the report.

The CDC estimates that Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States each year. Food is the source for about 1 million of those illnesses, according to the agency’s website.