Federal agencies are reporting a Salmonella outbreak traced to fresh-cut fruit is over after sickening more than 150 people in 14 states. The outbreak strain was particularly virulent with a high hospitalization rate.

One factor likely contributing to the 66 percent hospitalization rate involves the kinds of facilities that received the fruit. They served vulnerable populations with undeveloped or compromised immune systems.

“Most ill people reported eating cut fruit served in long-term care facilities, hospitals, hotels, or schools,” according to today’s outbreak update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Several ill people reported purchasing cut fruit from multiple locations of a grocery store chain.”

“State health officials collected records from the locations where ill people ate or purchased the cut fruit and determined that these locations served or sold cut fruit from Tailor Cut Produce.”

The illness onset dates for the 165 confirmed outbreak patients range from Nov. 7 through Jan. 11. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 92 years, according to the CDC. Of 111 ill people with information available, 73 were hospitalized. Public health officers with the Pennsylvania Department of Health first identified the outbreak.

Tailor Cut Produce officials initiated a recall on Dec. 7, one day after the FDA announced an investigation involving the New Jersey company. 

Ultimately epidemiologic and traceback evidence showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Javiana was linked to Tailor’s fruit mix with cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and grapes. A specific source of the pathogen remains a mystery.

“The FDA’s investigational activities, including an inspection, are complete,” according to the Food and Drug Administration update today. 

“The FDA worked with CDC and state partners to trace back the cut fruit and learn more about the potential routes of contamination. Tailor Cut Produce was identified as the common processor, but the source of the contamination was not identified. 

“When FDA did an inspection at Tailor Cut Produce, the inspectors observed these general deficiencies: the firm’s hazard analysis did not identify a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard that required a preventive control; the firm did not identify a preventive control for a hazard when one was needed, and the firm did not maintain the plant in a clean and sanitary condition and keep the plant in repair. The firm is working with the FDA to address the deficiencies.”

The 165 outbreak patients were confirmed by the use of whole-genome sequencing, which provides a DNA fingerprint of specific strains of bacteria. 

The tests identified patients in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

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