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Salmonella linked to Caribeña brand Maradol papayas from Mexico

A multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections was linked to a single brand of Maradol papayas from Mexico, but other varieties and brands have not been implicated, according to a leading importer of the tropical fruit.

On July 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued an advisory not to eat yellow Maradol papayas due to the possibility of the presence of Salmonella Kiambu, which to date has afflicted 47 people in 12 states. Twelve people have been hospitalized and one person died in New York City as a result of the outbreak.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued its own advisory July 22 against consuming Caribeña brand papayas, which it identified as the source of the contamination. FDA said papaya samples taken by the Maryland Department of Health at a Baltimore retail location tested positive for the strains of Salmonella Kiambu and Salmonella Thompson that were found in people who had fallen ill.

States that have reported illnesses linked to the outbreak are Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The highest concentration of illnesses are New York (13), New Jersey (12), Virginia (6), Maryland (5) and Pennsylvania (4). Each of the other states has reported a single illness.

Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications at HLB Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL, a leading importer of papayas from Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico, said that while the health and safety of consumers is her company’s primary concern, she wants the industry to be clear that it is solely one brand of Maradol papayas from Mexico that have been identified as the source of the contamination.

“We want to help consumers and the industry understand the facts about the situation and not think that all papayas are included in the CDC advisory,” she said. “As an importer, we are responsible for thousands of families that consume papayas, and we are concerned for the people who have been sickened as a result of this outbreak. But we also want to avoid the misperception that all papayas are unsafe to eat.”

Since many large papayas carry a common PLU code (3112) no matter the variety or origin, Hartmann de Barros fears that retailers and consumers will summarily discard all the fruit as a result of the advisory. She added that some Maradol papayas have different PLU codes, such as 4394 or 4396.

“In addition to Mexico, papayas are grown in Brazil, Guatemala and Hawaii, and none of those regions are related to the outbreak,” she said. “And even in Mexico, which is a large country, it was one specific grower that was involved in the outbreak. Also, Maradol is the only variety that is part of the advisory, not others such as Tainung and Golden. So we want people to know that those varieties are safe to eat.”

She said that HLB has reached out to its retail customers and has used social media in an attempt to educate retailers and consumers about the different papaya varieties and countries of origin. She encourages anyone with questions or concerns to contact HLB at 954/475.8808 or usa@hlbspec.com.