The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday warned the papaya industry that it is clamping down on food safety after eight salmonella outbreaks linked to imports of the fresh fruit in the past eight years has resulted in nearly 500 reported illnesses, more than 100 hospitalizations, and two deaths.
The agency’s announcement comes on the heels of the latest outbreak of salmonella Uganda illnesses in June that are tied to the consumption of whole, fresh papaya imported from Mexico.
“This trend has to stop,” the FDA said. “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. This includes growers, importers and even retailers that can and must do more.”
To that end, the agency issued a letter to growers, harvesters, packers, distributors, exporters, importers, and retailers in the papaya industry urging them to “assess the factors that make their crops vulnerable to contamination” and “review their operations and make all necessary changes” to prevent future outbreaks.
“Rest assured that the FDA intends to use all the tools and enforcement powers we have available to further strengthen safeguards and prevent contaminated papayas from being imported into the U.S.,” the agency said in its letter.
In response to the most recent salmonella Uganda outbreak, the FDA said it issued a warning letter Monday to Bronx, N.Y.-based papaya importer and distributor, Agroson’s LLC, which the agency blames for the eight-state outbreak of salmonella illnesses. Agroson’s had “refused” to recall its Cavi brand of whole, fresh papayas, the FDA said.
The FDA said its investigation at Agroson’s facility “uncovered significant violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”
In addition, the FDA said it had deployed an inspection team to the packing house and farm that was linked to the contaminated papayas via traceback and epidemiological evidence.
“The findings of those visits will be made public when their investigation is complete,” the FDA said. “We have also increased sampling and screening of papayas at the border.”