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Third importer recalls Mexican papayas in Salmonella outbreak

A third produce importer in the U.S. is recalling whole, fresh maradol papayas grown and packed by Carica de Campeche in Mexico because a deadly, ongoing Salmonella outbreak has been traced to papayas from the farm.

Freshtex Produce LLC of Alamo, TX, posted its recall of “Valery” brand maradol papayas from the farm in Southern Mexico on Monday. Freshtex Produce distributed the recalled papayas to customers in Illinois from July 10 through 13.

“However, the product may have been further distributed outside the state of Illinois,” according to the recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

Grande Produce of San Juan, TX, and Agroson’s Produce of New York City already recalled whole, fresh maradol papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm in Southern Mexico.

Although no illnesses had been confirmed in relation to the Valery brand of maradol papayas as of Monday, there are 109 people across 16 states who have been confirmed with Salmonella infections, according to a Monday update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the 76 outbreak victims for whom information is available, there is a 46 percent hospitalization rate, with 35 victims having experienced symptoms so severe they had to be admitted. One person in New York City died.

Additional victims are expected to be identified because people who became ill after July 10 might not yet be included in the CDC’s numbers because of the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to four weeks, according to the CDC.

The CDC is recommending that consumers should not eat — and restaurants and retailers should not sell — maradol papayas from any suppliers in Mexico until further notice.

The FDA was more specific in its outbreak update on Monday evening.

“The FDA is now advising that consumers avoid Caribeña, Cavi and Valery brands of maradol papayas, and all varieties of papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm located in Campeche, Mexico, as a result of the FDA’s traceback investigation and testing,” according to the agency’s Monday outbreak update.

“The FDA is working to identify additional brand(s) that these papayas are sold under and facilitate recall(s). Meanwhile, consumers should ask their retailers about the source of their papayas.”

The fresh papayas recalled by Freshtex Produce can be identified by the Valery name on the box and labels that say grown and packed by Carica de Campeche. Freshtex Produce has ceased importing papayas from the grower, “and is taking all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its imported produce,” according to the recall notice.

“Consumers who may have purchased the Valery brand papayas are advised to dispose of them. Consumers with questions may contact Freshtex Produce at 956-322-4817.”

Advice to consumers, restaurants and retailers
State and federal public health officials recommend applying the golden rule of food safety regarding papayas on hand in homes and businesses — when in doubt, throw it out.

Additional recommendations from CDC include:

  • If you have had whole, fresh papayas in your home or business, wash and sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils, as well as drawers or shelves in refrigerators where papayas were stored, with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or new paper towel.
  • Wash your hands with running water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

The CDC posted this photo with the outbreak notice, describing maradol papayas as large, oval fruits that weigh 3 or more pounds, with green skins that turn yellow when the fruit is ripe. The flesh inside the fruit is salmon-colored.” Photo courtesy of CDC

Anyone who has eaten fresh papaya recently and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection is urged to seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure so the proper diagnostic tests can be performed.

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and fever.

Symptoms usually begin between 12 to 36 hours after exposure, but they may begin as early as 6 hours or as late as 72 hours after exposure.

Symptoms can be mild or severe and commonly last for two to seven days. Salmonella can infect anyone, but young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections.

Investigation details
The FDA has been working with state officials and the CDC to investigate the ongoing outbreak, which was first identified by Maryland public health staff investigating a cluster of Salmonella Kiambu illnesses.

Grande Produce of San Juan, TX, recalled Caribeña brand maradol papayas it distributed in Maryland and other states after people confirmed with Salmonella infections reported eating the fruit before they became ill. Lab tests conducted by Maryland officials confirmed the outbreak strain of Salmonella on Caribeña brand maradol papayas collected from a grocery store in Baltimore and from sick people’s homes.

Friday morning FDA named the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico as the source of several brands of papayas, including those distributed by Grande Produce and Agroson’s, that tested positive for Salmonella.

“Papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm tested positive for Salmonella Kiambu, Salmonella Thompson, Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Senftenberg, and Salmonella Gaminara,” FDA reported Friday morning.

Editor’s note: Because of the popularity of papayas in Mexican and Hispanic cuisine, public health officials say people in those groups are at particular risk during the current outbreak. As of Monday, for the 74 outbreak victims for whom ethnicity information was available, 50, or 68 percent, are Hispanic. To access Spanish versions of information the CDC and FDA have posted about the outbreak and recalls, please use the following links:

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