Food-borne illness, a papaya alert

| Updated on August 31, 2019

Every day, Americans enjoy an abundant food supply that is among the safest in the world. The US Food and Drug Administration works to ensure that foods available to consumers, whether they are produced domestically or abroad, meet the FDA’s food safety requirements and that we are using all available tools to ensure compliance.

As demand and tastes continue to drive change in the market, consumers’ desire for a variety of products available year-round has increased the number of imported foods offered for sale in the US.

While we continue to focus on shifting our work upholding food safety from response to prevention, there are times where we need to respond to problems when they arise, including outbreaks of food-borne illness. This is especially important in the recurrent patterns of illness associated with particular commodities. For example, fresh papayas. This commodity is most often eaten raw, without cooking or processing to eliminate microbial hazards; and therefore, the way they are grown, harvested, packed, held, processed and distributed is crucial to minimising the risk of contamination with human pathogens.

Unfortunately, since 2011, American consumers have been exposed to eight outbreaks caused by Salmonella serotypes linked to imported, fresh papaya. And, just this June we started an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda illnesses tied to the consumption of whole, fresh papaya imported from Mexico. While the 2019 outbreak is ongoing, the first seven outbreaks accounted for almost 500 reported cases of illness, more than 100 hospitalisations, and two deaths.

More must be done by the papaya industry to protect its customers. This includes growers, importers and even retailers. We are urging growers, packers, shippers and retailers in the papaya industry to review their operations and make all necessary changes to strengthen public health safeguards.

Source: USFDA

Published on August 31, 2019

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