One dead in US Salmonella outbreak in papayas from Mexico

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Maradol papaya Picture: CDC
Maradol papaya Picture: CDC

Related tags Epidemiology Illness

Almost 50 people have been sickened in the US by Salmonella linked to papayas from Mexico.

A total of 47 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Kiambu come from 12 states. Twelve people have been hospitalized and one person has died.

CDC told consumers not to eat, restaurants not to serve and retailers not to sell Maradol papayas. They are green before they ripen and turn yellow.

All 47 cases have the same pattern by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis on ten patient samples were highly related indicating the patients were likely sickened by the same type of food.

Potential for more affected brands and illnesses

Illness dates are from May 17 to June 28, ill people range in age from less than one year to 95 and 67% are female.

Among 31 people with available information, 18 are of Hispanic ethnicity.

Illnesses after June 23 might not be reported yet as it takes an average of two to four weeks between when a person becomes ill and when it is reported.


Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and fever. Symptoms usually occur between 12 and 36 hours after exposure, but they may begin as early as six hours or as late as 72 hours after exposure. Symptoms can be mild or severe and commonly last for two to seven days.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Caribeña brand Maradol papayas have been linked to illnesses but additional brands could also be involved.

Maradol papayas from Mexico were distributed by Grande Produce in San Juan, Texas.

Grande Produce was founded in 2004 by Juan Cano and has 35,000 square feet of temperature-controlled warehouse space.

The firm told the FDA that it did a limited recall of Caribeña brand Maradol papayas distributed nationwide from July 7-18 but the company has not issued a press release related to this.

“It appears the distribution pattern of Caribeña brand Maradol papayas does not explain all of the illnesses, meaning other firms likely have distributed contaminated Maradol papayas as well. At this time, the farm(s) producing these papayas appear to only be in Mexico​,” said the FDA.

The Public Health Agency of Canada told us it was 'monitoring the situation' and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said papayas are imported into Canada from Mexico.

The CFIA added it was monitoring the outbreak and investigating to determine if any papayas were imported into Canada from the same source in Mexico.

Salmonella Thompson sample findings

Eleven of 25 people interviewed in the US reported eating papayas in the week before they became ill.

In Maryland, several ill people ate papayas from the same grocery store. Salmonella Kiambu and Salmonella Thompson were isolated from samples from ill people.

Yellow, Caribeña-brand Maradol papayas were distributed to stores throughout Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Health collected papayas from the grocery store associated with the illness cluster to test for Salmonella.

One sample yielded the outbreak strain of S. ​Kiambu and another S. ​Thompson.

They tested five yellow Maradol papayas and three were contaminated with Salmonella.

The source of contamination has not been identified but could have occurred at any point in the supply chain, said the health department.

WGS showed the S. ​Kiambu papaya isolate is closely related genetically to the isolates from ill people.

CDC said it is still determining whether the S.​ Thompson illness is part of the multistate outbreak.

Related topics Food safety & quality

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