Do Not Eat Papayas From Mexico, Warns the CDC

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health services, are investigating a multi-state outbreak of 62 Salmonella Uganda illnesses potentially linked to whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico.  

These illnesses have been reported in eight states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas. CDC is advising that consumers in those states should not eat any whole, fresh papayas from Mexico.

According to the CDC, of the 62 illnesses, 60 have been reported in six states in the Northeast. One patient from Florida who was reported ill had traveled to Connecticut before becoming ill. Another patient from Texas was also reported ill. Twenty-three people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 14, 2019 to June 8, 2019, but most cases have occurred since last April. Of 33 ill people with available information, 22 (67%) reported being of Hispanic ethnicity, said the CDC in a press release.

The FDA is increasing import screening for whole, fresh papayas and will continue to investigate the cause and source of the outbreak as well as the distribution of products.

Preliminary analysis of product import records indicates that the whole, fresh papayas that made people sick in this outbreak were from Mexico. As this outbreak investigation continues, the FDA will work with the Mexican food safety regulatory counterparts to better define this outbreak.

The FDA strongly advises importers, suppliers, and distributors, as well as restaurants, retailers, and other food service providers from all states to hold whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico.

This hold is intended to prevent or limit further distribution of potentially contaminated papayas that may already be in the supply chain until more information on the potential source of papayas linked to the outbreak becomes available. Any product that is held beyond expiration date should be discarded.

In the event that restaurants, retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled potentially contaminated papayas in their facilities, they should:

  • Contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to a pathogen.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.