Salmonella Contamination Fears Lead to Mexican Papaya Ban
Federal health regulators are blocking all Mexican papayas from entering the United States after finding widespread salmonella contamination.
The FDA issued an import alert on August 25, indicating that fresh, whole papayas will be prevented from entering the country from Mexico unless the importer can prove they are not contaminated through private laboratory testing. Mexican growers supply the U.S. with 65% of its papayas.
The decision to block their entry into the country came after a multi-state salmonella food poisoning outbreak linked to Mexican papayas sickened more than 100 people in 23 states.
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Federal health officials believe the illnesses began as early as January, but they were not linked until sampling by the FDA found the same strain of salmonella in papayas tested from Agromod Produce Inc. in McAllen, Texas, and in samples crossing the U.S. border from Mexico, where the fruit was grown.
Follow-up testing by the FDA revealed that 15.6% of all Mexican papayas, regardless of where in the country they were grown or who was exporting them, were contaminated with salmonella.
Companies wishing to move Mexican papayas into the U.S. without detention will need an independent, third-party laboratory to test five consecutive shipments of papayas and declare them to be free of salmonella contamination.
In the meantime, the U.S. and Mexican health officials are working together to find the source of the contamination in the Mexican papaya supply chain. The FDA said in its import alert that it is “extremely unlikely” that the salmonella that caused the outbreak or the contamination found during testing was due to random, natural, contamination events.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. For most healthy adults, symptoms of food poisoning from salmonella typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe food poisoning after ingesting the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella food poisoning can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.
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