In Wake of Papaya Salmonella Outbreak, Food Safety Attorney Calls on Government to Fund Food Safety

On July 26, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 99 people, ranging in age from 1 to 91, are part of a nationwide Salmonella outbreak that has been traced to contaminated papayas imported from Mexico. At least 10 of the victims were hospitalized.

Agromod Produce, Inc. of McAllen, Texas, recalled all whole papayas sold under its Blondie, Yaya, Mañanita, and Tastylicious brands after its papayas were determined to be the source of the Salmonella outbreak, which has been ongoing since January. The papayas were distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada, and may have been served cut or in fruit salads as well as whole.

“It’s time for politicians to stop squabbling and do what’s right for every American consumer by funding legislation that will make our food safer – especially imports,” said attorney Bill Marler, who has represented victims of every major national Salmonella outbreak in the last 20 years. “This papaya Salmonella outbreak is a prime example of what our federal food safety agencies are trying to prevent.”

“With cuts to public health budgets and a reduction in foodborne illness surveillance, it’s not surprising that the outbreak wasn’t prevented. What’s surprising is that outbreak was detected at all. There could be hundreds, even thousands of people who ate papayas and became ill with Salmonella out there that we don’t even know about due to reduced capacity to monitor for foodborne illness.”

States have reported the following number of people who became ill with Salmonella after eating papayas: Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (7), Colorado (1), Georgia (8), Illinois (17), Louisiana (2), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (3), Missouri (3), Nebraska (2), Nevada (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (3), New York (7), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (1), Texas (25), Virginia (2), Washington (5), and Wisconsin (2).

There have been at least two prior outbreaks of Salmonella linked to Papaya consumption. A large outbreak of Salmonella occurred in September 1996 and involved at least 116 workers at a shipyard in Jurong, China. Between October 2006 and January 2007, an outbreak of 26 cases of Salmonella infection occurred in the states of Western Australia and Queensland.