Florida stands alone in criticism of FDA, CDC and 30 other states in determining the source of a Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers.

According to press reports, the Florida Department of Agriculture (FDOA) called the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) tracing of a Salmonella outbreak to a local cucumber grower “at best inaccurate, and at worst misleading.” Apparently, the head of food safety at the FDOA, who told the FDA in an email “We find the science inaccurate, unsubstantiated and unnecessarily damaging to the firm implicated.”

However, according to the FDA, CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states collected different types of data to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Africana and Salmonella Braenderup infections. Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory data show that cucumbers were contaminated with Salmonella and made people sick. CDC and FDA combined these two outbreak investigations as they shared several similarities, including where and when illnesses occurred, the demographics of ill people and the foods they reported eating before they became sick.

As of July 2, a total of 449 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Africana and Salmonella Braenderup have been reported from 31 states and the District of Columbia. Of these illnesses, 215 people were infected with the newly added Salmonella Braenderup strain. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 11, 2024, to June 4, 2024. Of 360 people with information available, 125 have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may have been part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS).WGS 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.

FDA’s traceback investigation identified Bedner Growers, Inc., in Florida as a supplier of cucumbers in this outbreak. This one grower does not account for all illnesses in this outbreak. FDA collected samples at the grower in Florida and identified Salmonella Braenderup in untreated canal water. WGS determined that the Salmonella found in the water is the same strain of Salmonella Braenderup that made people in this outbreak sick. Additional soil and water samples collected at Bedner Growers, Inc. were positive for other strains of Salmonella. CDC and FDA are looking to see if these strains have also caused illness in people.

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