UPDATE 1 a.m. EDT July 26: Officials with Grande Produce LLC did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday. The CDC posted an outbreak update Tuesday, with the victim count holding at one dead and 46 others sickened. 

Grande Produce LLC, the importer of Caribeña brand Maradol papayas linked to a deadly and ongoing Salmonella outbreak, has “initiated a limited recall” of the fruit distributed nationwide from July 10-19, according to the Food and Drug Administration — but the company has not made the recall public.

Because the company, based in San Juan, TX, has not revealed the recall to the public, the federal agency is warning consumers to avoid all Caribeña brand Maradol papayas because they have been linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has killed one person and sickened 46 others across 12 states.

FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maryland Department of Health and other state and local public health agencies are investigating the outbreak.

FDA is advising consumers to avoid all Caribeña brand Maradol papayas. The FDA also noted that there are illnesses in states where Grande Produce did not distribute papayas and is continuing its investigation.

The CDC posted this photo with its outbreak notice. Photo courtesy of CDC

According to FDA’s update, posted this afternoon:

  • Consumers should not to eat Caribeña brand Maradol papayas because they are linked to an outbreak of salmonellosis. Maradol papayas are green before they ripen and turn yellow, so consumers should not eat Caribeña brand regardless of the color. If anyone has these papayas in their home, they should dispose of them immediately. These can be identified by a red, green and yellow sticker.
  • Papaya samples collected by Maryland health officials from a Baltimore retail location tested positive for the strains of Salmonella Kiambu and Thompson that match strains found in ill people.
  • CDC recommends people should not eat Maradol papayas from Mexico. FDA continues its traceback investigation. At this time, Caribeña brand papayas from Mexico have been identified as a brand linked to these illnesses. Additional brands will be announced as the information becomes available.
  • CDC reports 47 cases,12 hospitalizations and one death from 12 states in the Salmonella Kiambu outbreak. The states involved are Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Run up to FDA’s warning
The Maryland Health Department (MDH) was the first to alert the public of a problem with Caribeña brand yellow Maradol papayas on July 19 with an advisory warning consumers not to eat them.

“MDH informed the FDA, CDC and state partners that several ill people shopped at the same Baltimore retail location and purchased papayas. Records and samples of green and yellow papaya were collected. On July 17 Maryland reported that three of ten samples had preliminarily tested positive for Salmonella,” according to FDA’s warning today.

“All positive samples were Caribeña brand yellow Maradol papayas from Mexico; none of the green papayas were positive. However, as noted above, Maradol papayas are green before they ripen and turn yellow, so consumers should not eat Caribeña brand papayas regardless of the color.”

Whole genome sequence testing linked the papaya samples to the Salmonella Kiambu outbreak and a case of Salmonella Thompson.

On June 26, the CDC notified the FDA about a cluster of Salmonella Kiambu infections. All 47 cases have the same pattern by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis was conducted on ten patient samples in the outbreak cluster and all were highly related. This indicates that the patients were likely sickened by the same type of food, according to the FDA.

Advice to consumers, restaurants and retailers
State and federal public health officials recommend applying the golden rule of food safety regarding papayas that consumers, foodservice operators and retailers may still have on hand: When in doubt, throw it out.

Additional recommendations from CDC include:

  • If you aren’t sure if the papaya you bought is a yellow Maradol papaya, you can ask the place of purchase. Restaurants and retailers can ask their suppliers.
  • 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.

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.

In the current outbreak, illnesses began on May 17, with the most recent confirmed case having reported symptom onset on June 28. The CDC believes additional victims will be identified because of the lag time between illness onset and when local health officials report the cases to state and federal authorities. People who became sick after June 23 could easily not yet be included in the victim count.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)