- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A third fruit distributor issued a recall Tuesday for papayas amid a salmonella outbreak that has caused one death and sickened more than 100 people in 16 states since May.

Valery brand papayas, which are distributed by Fresh Tex Produce LLC, issued a voluntary recall Tuesday, following similar actions by the Caribeña brand, which is distributed by Grande Produce, and the Cavi brand, which is distributed by Agroson’s.

The Food and Drug Administration has identified the Carica de Campeche farm in Campeche, Mexico, as the source of the deadly outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported at least 109 cases of salmonella poisoning since the outbreak was first identified in mid-July. Of those cases, 35 people have been hospitalized and one person has died.

The Maryland Department of Health first identified the salmonella contamination in mid-July, when several people hospitalized with food poisoning were found to have purchased papayas from the same Baltimore retail store.

Since then, the outbreak has been noted in a total of 16 states — mostly in New York and New Jersey, which have 36 and 26 cases, respectively, according to The Associated Press. Those states are followed by Virginia with 11 cases, Pennsylvania with seven and six in Maryland. Four cases have been reported in Connecticut and Minnesota, and three in Massachusetts.

Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma each have reported two cases; Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan and Wisconsin each reported one case, the AP reported.

Salmonella is a bacteria that is contracted by either contaminated food or water. It’s commonly associated with uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. But outbreaks in previous years have been linked to alfalfa sprouts, pistachios, powdered drinks and cucumbers.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning usually present themselves within 12 to 72 hours of contamination. They include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. While most people can recover in a few days, the bacteria can be fatal in children, the elderly and those with compromised or weakened immune systems.

Salmonella poisoning is responsible for about 380 deaths annually and 19,000 hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

It’s unclear what exactly caused the salmonella contamination of the fruit at the Mexican farm. An FDA spokesman said an investigation is ongoing and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Mexico accounts for 11 percent of the world’s papayas, and a number of Mexican producers ship to the United States.

While all fruit coming into the U.S. is subject to search and testing, farms and companies that demonstrate continuing and successive negative results for health hazards can be put on a “green list” and cross the border unimpeded.

The Campeche farm papayas had been on the green list, but they were removed when the FDA determined they were the source of the outbreak.

Specific information and product details are available on the FDA website, and consumers and restaurants are urged to discard the papayas immediately.

Counter surfaces and utensils that may have come in contact with the contaminated fruit should be disinfected, the CDC advised.

Other papaya shipments continue to be subject to routine inspection and testing in accordance with U.S. guidelines, according to the FDA.

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