In response to the repeated U.S. Salmonella outbreaks traced to papayas imported from Mexico, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) distributed a letter yesterday noting that “the recurring nature of these outbreaks is a clear indication that more must be done within all sectors of the papaya industry to protect its customers and to meet its legal obligations.”
Since 2011, there have been eight outbreaks tied to the consumption of imported fresh papayas from Mexico, resulting in two deaths as well as hundreds of people falling ill. Currently, the FDA is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda infections from whole, fresh papaya that has already sickened more than 70 people in eight states.
In the letter, Frank Yiannas (FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response) and Melinda Plaisier (FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs) voiced concern of about the pattern of recurrent outbreaks and stressed the need for industry stakeholders to prioritize protecting consumers from contaminated foods.
“Industry stakeholders have the primary responsibility to ensure that foods they bring to market are safe for consumers to eat and serve their families. We urge all segments of the papaya industry to review their operations and make all necessary changes to strengthen public health safeguards,” said the FDA leaders. “Working together, we must end these outbreaks.”
Western Growers’ Senior Vice President of Science, Technology & Strategic Planning Hank Giclas said that “while the letter may have been specifically directed to the papaya sector – it should serve as a reminder to the broader fresh produce industry that it is industry’s responsibility to ensure that what we bring to the marketplace is safe for consumers to eat and serve their families. We need to work to continually review and improve our practices, in concert with public health agencies and researchers, in a constant effort to prevent outbreaks and safeguard customers.”
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