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Dried coconut identified in outbreak; CDC says don’t eat it

The CDC is urging the public to avoid eating certain brands of dried coconut because they are linked to a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella poisoning that has been ongoing since September 2017.

This outbreak is unrelated to the Salmonella outbreak linked to frozen shredded coconut announced in January

“CDC recommends people not eat recalled International Harvest Inc. brand Go Smile! Raw Coconut, Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw or recalled Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic,” according to an outbreak notice posted today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Retailers and restaurants should not sell or serve recalled dried coconut products, the CDC said.

“Even if some of the recalled dried coconut was eaten or served and no one got sick, throw it away or return it to the place of purchase,” the CDC notice said, adding that sanitizing procedures should be implemented.

“Put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, and other animals can’t eat it. Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators and freezers where recalled coconut was stored.

“If you aren’t sure if your dried coconut was recalled, do not eat it and throw it away.”

Thirteen people from eight states are confirmed to be infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that has been found in the implicated brands of dried coconut. Three of the victims have required hospitalization because of severe symptoms. No deaths had been confirmed as of today.

Of the victims for whom complete information is available, 88 percent reported eating dried coconut purchased at grocery stores before they became sick. Of the seven people who reported eating dried coconut before becoming ill, four said they purchased the product at different Natural Grocers store locations.

However, illnesses that occurred after Jan. 25 might not yet be reported to the CDC because of the time it takes between when a person gets sick and when the illness is reported to local, state and, ultimately, federal public health officials. Please see the CDC’s “Timeline for Reporting Cases of Salmonella Infection” for more details.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from Sept. 22, 2017, to Feb. 26, 2018. Ill people range in age from 1 to 73, with a median age of 40. Sixty-seven percent are female.

FDA’s role in the investigation
The Food and Drug Administration has been working with state officials to pinpoint the source of the outbreak. They collected leftover dried coconut from ill people’s homes, as well as dried coconut from Natural Grocers store locations where people who got sick shopped and from the Natural Grocers’ Distribution Center.

FDA testing identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in an unopened sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic collected from Natural Grocers.

The outbreak strain was also identified in an opened, leftover sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic collected from a sick person’s home.

In addition, FDA collected dried coconut from International Harvest Inc. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium was identified in samples of International Harvest Brand Organic Go Smile! Dried Coconut Raw and Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

Courtesy of Natural Grocers

On March 16, 2018, International Harvest Inc. recalled bags of Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut and bulk packages of Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw. The recalled Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut was sold online and in stores in 9-ounce bags with sell-by dates from Jan. 1, 2018, through March 1, 2019.

Recalled bulk Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw was sold in a 25-pound case labeled with batch/lot numbers OCSM-0010, OCSM-0011 and OCSM-0014. These products were sold in various grocery stores. Regulatory officials are working to determine where else Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut and Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw were sold.

On March 19, Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets Inc. recalled packages of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic labeled with bar code 8034810 and packed-on numbers lower than 18-075. Recalled Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic were sold in 10-ounce clear plastic bags with the Natural Grocers label. The packed-on number can be found in the bottom left-hand corner of the label.

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