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What’s Going on with the Cavi Salmonella Papaya Outbreak?

Posted in Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls,Salmonella on August 3, 2019

Papaya is in the news again.  And linked to Salmonella nonetheless.  These new reports have me feeling déjà vu. Is it 2019 or 2017? With papaya and salmonella in the news again, it’s a bit hard to tell. Though with the movies currently in the theater it might be 1998 for all I know.

Unfortunately, it is in fact 2019, and we are seeing yet another large salmonella outbreak linked to papayas from Mexico. Here’s the latest on the Cavi Salmonella Papaya Outbreak:

What We Know About the Outbreak

We are looking at one brand – Cavi brand, associated with one distributor – Agroson’s LLC, linked to one strain of salmonella – Uganda. Sounds simple, right? Until you hear the rest of the numbers.


71 is the current number of cases linked to this Outbreak as of the last update on July 3rd.

Despite the bad rap, papayas are quite tasty and have quite a following.  So it is no surprise that people have a short-term memory and forget that this juicy fruit has a sorted past.  Certain precautions should be taken, such as washing them thoroughly.  Which, to be honest is what you should do with any fruit or vegetable.  But I digress.

So why the déjà vu?  Let’s take a walk down memory lane.  The Summer of 2017.

Big Bad Salmonella Outbreaks of 2017

2017 was a really big year of food related Salmonella outbreaks.  There were 4, in fact.  All posted outbreaks involved the sweet and delicious papaya.

First we saw a Salmonella Anatum outbreak that sickened 20 people (resulting in 5 hospitalizations and 1 death) between December 20, 2016 to August 16, 2017.  This outbreak was likely linked to the importer Bravo Produce Inc of San Ysidro, California.

Next we saw Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Infantis sicken 4 people (including 2 hospitalizations) from July 19, 2017 to August 7, 2017.  This outbreak was likely linked to the Rancho El Ganadero farm and distributed by Caraveo Produce in Colima, Mexico.

A later papaya Salmonella outbreak was Salmonella Urbana that sickened 7 people (including 4 hospitalizations) from July 23, 2017 to August 14, 2017.  The likely source of this outbreak was linked to El Zapotanito farm located in La Huerta, Jalisco, Mexico.

But the largest outbreak involved several strains of Salmonella, including: Salmonella Thompson, Salmonella Kiambu, Salmonella Agona, and Salmonella Gaminara.  This outbreak sickened 200 people and was responsible for 68 hospitalizations and 1 death.  This outbreak spanned a longer onset range as well from May 17, 2017 to October 4, 2017.

Animal linked transmissions accounted for more outbreaks.  Between pet turtles and live poultry, thousands were sickened.  Live chickens were the worst offenders.

When you think Salmonella, most people think chicken and such.  However, many other food sources can be contaminated with this harmful bacteria.  Including the innocent looking papaya.  But how?

How Exactly Does Papaya Have Salmonella?

The papaya does not inherently have Salmonella swimming around in its fruit.  Unlike chicken, the papaya becomes contaminated from an external source.  At the farm, animals might track the contamination from another source or even deposit contaminated feces as they pass through the farm.  Irrigation water may come contaminated and deposit the harmful bacteria on the fruit and plant as it is being watered.  Poor hygiene at the harvest or processing facility may contribute to Salmonella contamination.  Even at your own home there are opportunities to contaminate your fruit.

Prevention is Key

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin

While some measures may not be fully preventable, putting measures in place where possible will help mitigate some of the risks.  These actions can be taken at the farm, at processing and distribution, and at your own home.

Prevention at the Farm

Pest Control: To prevent contamination spread by pests (rats, mice, deer, wild hogs, etc.), a good pest control plan is essential.  These pests can track contamination from dirty areas to clean areas.  Contaminated droppings may also contribute to the spread of harmful bacteria.  Fencing and containment measures may help reduce unintended animal roaming activity.

Water Management:  It is a no brainer really.  If you use contaminated water, the plant will become contaminated.  Farmers are supposed to use a clean water source.  In some places, local initiatives even require farmers to test the water to prove it so.  Many times, the farmers are not even aware the water they are using is tainted.  Some farmers, such as those in droughted areas like Arizona, natural water sources are necessary.  What happens to the water upstream is out of the farmers’ control.  Previous outbreaks due to contaminated produce have been linked to feedlot runoff into water used for irrigation.  There are regulations for feedlot vicinity to water sources, but oftentimes they are not enforced until there is a problem.  As a preventative measure, farmers should be aware of potential risks associated with their water source and treat the water prior to using it as necessary.

Prevention at Processing and Distribution

Hygiene: During harvest, processing, and distribution many hands touch the produce before making it to the grocery store and then onto your home.  Hands that can transfer harmful bacteria.  Handwashing and appropriate hygiene practices go a long way to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

Having bathrooms and handwash stations available and easily accessible is absolutely necessary.  If you don’t give people a place to “go” they will find a place to “go.”  Not to mention the golden rule for disease prevention is “wash your hands.”

This goes for production facilities too.  Employees, especially those who come in contact with produce directly, should be washing their hands regularly.  Especially after using the bathroom!

Pest Control: Just like in the field, pests (such as mice, rats, and flies) can track contamination onto cleaned product.  Appropriate pest control measures reduce contamination from these unwanted pests.

Prevention at Home

Once the product makes it into your home, whether it is contaminated or not, you have the power to stop the spread of illness.  A few simple steps make the difference between consuming an infectious papaya and a clean one.

Segregation of Space:  Fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods (those that don’t need cooking) should never be stored in the same place as raw meat or other potentially contaminated foods.  Keep refrigerated meats on the lower shelf in a container that prevents leaking blood or other materials from the packaging.

Wash Your Produce: If rule number 1 is wash your hands.  Then rule number 2 falls at a close second to wash your produce.  Even foods that you do not eat the peel must be washed.  take an avocado, for example.  Obviously you don’t eat the skin.  But what happens when you glide that knife into the flesh?  Bacteria (potentially bad bugs), might travel with the knife, through the flesh, and deposit contamination as well.

Wash Your Hands:  Back to the golden rule.  Before you prepare food, before you eat, and anything you feel like your hands are dirty or contaminated.  Wash your hands!

Are Papaya’s Safe?

At this time, only one brand of papaya is covered in the recall and outbreak analysis.  If you follow the appropriate prevention steps in your home and observe any recalls that might apply to produce in your home, you should be safe.  Want to skip the papaya for now.  That might not be such a bad idea.  Peaches are wonderful this time of year.  How about mango?

The Lange Law Firm 

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water.  When corporations cause Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you or your child was infected with Salmonella after eating papayas in this Cavi Salmonella Papaya Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have a Salmonella lawyer ready to help you.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.

By: Heather Van Tassell, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)