There’s a difference between feeling sorry for something and feeling bad about it. And Andrew and Williamson, the San Diego produce company identified by health officials as the likely source of the deadly cucumber Salmonella outbreak, wants families of those sickened or killed to know that it feels bad for them, but isn’t sure it is responsible.
In a statement issued today, coinciding with updates from the CDC and the FDA saying the outbreak has expanded to 30 states, with 341 sick, 70 hospitalized and two dead, the company said: “Our thoughts go out to the victims, their families and their loved ones. We want to let those who are affected know we are fully cooperating with health officials to ensure we are doing everything possible to learn if we are responsible and how this could have happened.”
Maybe the company’s disbelief stems from the fact that it has “spent millions on food safety” to prevent this type of thing and has tried to improve industry practices. Several years ago, for example, it was the first grower to join the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), an Oxfam America program that provides training to farm workers about food safety issues such as hygiene and clean water.
But others don’t need more time to be convinced.
In its outbreak update today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said: “The FDA, CDC, and state and local officials are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to “slicer” cucumbers, supplied by Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce and grown in Baja, Mexico. This type of cucumber can also be called ‘American’ cucumbers.”
The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) update today said: “Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations have identified imported cucumbers from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as a likely source of the infections in this outbreak.”
What’s more, said the CDC, four state health departments – Arizona, California, Montana, and Nevada – have isolated Salmonella from the company’s cucumbers collected from various locations. More specifically, “the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services isolated one of the [three] outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona from a cucumber collected from a retail location.” And traceback information indicates that these cucumbers were distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.
DNA “fingerprinting” is being conducted to determine the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern of the Salmonella isolated from the cucumbers in Arizona and Montana. DNA “fingerprinting” is still ongoing for theSalmonella isolated from cucumbers collected from the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce facility by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. Results of additional product testing will be reported when available.
Also not likely to need further convincing is Red Lobster, which has been identified by the Minnesota Department of Health as the source of exposure to contaminated cucumbers for at least 10 people in that state who are part of the Salmonella outbreak. Several lawsuits have been filed in connection with the outbreak.
More than half of those sickened in this outbreak are children under 18. Children are among those at highest risk for Salmonella, with infection rates for children under 5 quintuple the rate for all other ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children are also among those most likely to have severe infections, the kind that migrate from the digestive track to the bloodstream and pose life-threatening risk without hospitalization.