I am lucky to have an epidemiologist on staff. Perhaps Fresh Start needs one too.

Let me make a prediction, Fresh Start will eat its press release because the FDA will find more cucumbers that test positive for either Salmonella Africana, Salmonella Braenderup or Salmonella Bareilly in states other than Pennsylvania and there will be more clinical (human) positives for Africana, Braenderup and Bareilly.

Let’s start with the basics. The Salmonella Africana found in samples of the 196 victims of this outbreak share the same whole genome sequence (WGS). This showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak likely got sick from the same type of food. However, after the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture released test results showing that the Fresh Start cucumbers it tested were positive for a different strain of Salmonella – Salmonella Bareilly. This DOES NOT mean that Fresh Start cucumber are not the source to the Salmonella Africana outbreak and Fresh Start may well also be the source of a different outbreak – Salmonella Braenderup – linked to its cucumbers too. Epidemiology will tell that tale as well.

So Fresh Start do not crow too loudly of your innocence.

WGS and epidemiology do not lie. Here is what the FDA and CDC have said to date: 

Based on epidemiological information collected by CDC for the Salmonella Africana investigation, as of June 12, 196 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Africana have been reported from 28 states and the District of Columbia. Of the 85 people interviewed, 63 (74%) reported eating cucumbers. 

CDC and FDA are also investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup infections, with 185 illnesses in 24 states. The two outbreaks share several similarities, including where and when illnesses occurred and the demographics of ill people. Investigators are working to determine whether the two outbreaks could be linked to the same food vehicle. Information will be provided on the source of the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak as it becomes available.

As part of the Salmonella Africana investigation, state partners in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture collected samples of cucumbers from several retail locations in their state. One sample supplied by Fresh Start Produce Sales, Inc., of Delray, Florida, tested positive for Salmonella. The specific strain of Salmonella found on Fresh Start Produce Sales, Inc. recalled cucumbers was identified as Salmonella Bareilly and does not match any ongoing outbreaks.  

Fresh Start Produce take a deep breath, talk to an epidemiologist and follow the science. That is what the folks at health departments in 28 states, the FDA and the CDC are doing.

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