Federal officials say an outbreak of Salmonella traced to dried coconut appears to be over, but they are renewing their public warning about a lingering threat.
Fourteen people across eight states and the District of Columbia were confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Three people were admitted to hospitals. The strain was also laboratory confirmed in unopened packages of the coconut.
“This outbreak appears to be over. However, recalled dried coconut products have a long shelf life and may still be in people’s homes. Consumers unaware of the recall could continue to eat these products and potentially get sick,” according to an update posted Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The recalled bulk dried coconut may have been repackaged into clear, plastic containers with grocery store labeling, or served in bulk bins. If you aren’t sure if your dried coconut was recalled, do not eat it and throw it away.”
Distribution details regarding the implicated coconut are sketchy, with outbreak victims confirmed in states not included on the known distribution list. The known distribution information is available on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.
The FDA found the outbreak strain of Salmonella in unopened retail product samples of dried coconut and in opened packages of coconut collected from victims’ homes. Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Market, International Harvest, and Healthy Nut Factory recalled coconut products, which are listed on the FDA website.
Of the 10 victims for whom complete information is available, eight reported eating dried coconut during the week before they became ill.
Advice to consumers and retailers
The CDC recommends people not eat recalled dried coconut packaged as International Harvest Inc. brand Go Smile! Raw Coconut, Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw; Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic; and Healthy Nut Factory Organic Coconut Smiles. Throw it away or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.
Even if some of the recalled coconut was eaten or served and no one got sick, the CDC and FDA recommend that consumers throw the rest of it away. The coconut should be put it into a sealed bag in a secure trash bin so that children, pets, and other animals can’t eat it.
Health officials are concerned that recalled bulk dried coconut may have been repackaged into containers with grocery store labeling that do not include enough information for consumers to know if it is part of the recalls. If you aren’t sure if the coconut you purchased has been recalled, do not eat it and throw it away.
Consumers should wash and sanitize drawers and shelves in refrigerators and freezers where recalled coconut was stored.
Retailers should wash and sanitize bins or containers where recalled coconut was stored.
Anyone who eats dried coconut and develops symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to the foodborne bacteria. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Salmonella infections.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop the following signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)