Before you purchase your next papaya, take a quick peek at its label to ensure you aren't at risk of contracting a salmonella infection. A specific variety of the fruit — Maradol papayas, of the Caribeña brand — has been linked to a salmonella outbreak in 12 states. Nationwide, the outbreak has left 47 ill: 12 cases were so severe the patients were hospitalized, and one case in New York City was fatal.
In a news release last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health officials to investigate the food-borne illness. According to the CDC, papaya samples from a Maryland grocery store have been linked to sick individuals through genetic testing.
"Maradol papayas are green before they ripen and turn yellow, so consumers should not eat Caribeña brand regardless of the color," the FDA says on its website. "If anyone has these papayas in their home, they should dispose of them immediately."
New York and New Jersey have the highest number of cases, 13 and 12 respectively, followed by Virginia, which has six, and Maryland, which has five. Pennsylvania has four cases. Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Utah have one outbreak each.
Salmonella, which lasts anywhere from four to seven days, has a variety of symptoms including diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Most individuals can recover without treatment, but the elderly, young children, and those with weakened immune systems can suffer severe forms of the infection.
Grande Produce of San Juan, TX — the distributor the Caribeña brand papayas — issued a voluntary limited recall on Wednesday of the Caribeña brand Maradol papayas citing "potential health risks." The impacted papayas were distributed from July 10 through July 19 and have a "Caribeña" brand label on the carton. Grande Produce has stopped importing papayas from its grower.
That said, the FDA maintains that consumers avoid all papayas from the brand, advising consumers to toss out any products at home, refrain from buying this specific variety, and to ask restaurants if they're using Caribeña brand Maradol papayas.