October 27, 2016

Cucumbers Serve Up Salmonella for Third Straight Summer

Cucumbers contaminated with Salmonella have sickened hundreds of Americans for the second summer in a row. An ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to imported cucumbers has sickened 285 people cucumber-salmonella-outbreakin 27 states. Fifty three people have been hospitalized, one person in California died.

Last summer, an outbreak of similar size – 275 people in 29 states and one fatality, was linked to cucumbers from the the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) region of the country. Those illnesses occurred between May and September of 2014.

Between January and April in 2013, a Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers from Mexico sickened 84 people in 18 states. Those cucumbers were supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culican, Mexico.

In connection with the current outbreak, a recall has been issued for the cucumbers, grown in Baja, Mexico and supplied by Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce of San Diego, California.

In interviews with health officials, those sickened said they ate cucumbers purchased from grocery stores and in meals ordered from restaurants. Grocery stores doing business with Andrew and Williamson include Fresh and Easy, Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, HEB,  Albertsons, United, Sam’s Club, and Savemart, according to the company’s website. Restaurants include Olive Garden, Red Lobster, The Capital Grille and In-n-Out Burger.

The recalled cucumbers, known as “slicer” or “American” cucumbers, are dark green in color and between 7 and 10 inches long and between 1.75 inches to 2.5 inches in diameter. At grocery stores, they are typically sold in a bulk display without any individual packaging or plastic wrapping. Restaurants often slice these cucumbers for use in salads.

Ryan Osterholm

Attorney Ryan Osterholm ryan@pritzkerlaw.com

Several Salmonella illness clusters have been linked to restaurants. In Minnesota, at least 10 people ate the contaminated cucumbers at five Red Lobster locations, according to the state health department.

Health officials used traceback investigations from illness clusters  to identify cucumbers from Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce facility as the likely source of this outbreak. Then the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency performed testing on cucumbers collected from Andrew & Williamson’s and isolated Salmonella from cucumbers.

Genetic “fingerprint” testing is being done on those isolates to see if the Salmonella strain matches the fingerprint of the strain collected form those who became ill. Health officials say they will make those results available when they are ready.

The 285 illnesses were reported from July 3, 2015 to August 26, 2015.  Fifty four percent of those sickened are children 18 and younger.

By state, the case count is as follows: Alaska (8), Arizona (60), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, which usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure,  include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days. In some cases, the diarrhea is so severe that hospitalization is required. For these patients, there is a risk that the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream. This can be fatal if untreated.


  1. Is the contamination on the surface of the cucumbers? Can it be removed by washing before slicing?

    • Linda Larsen says:

      We don’t know where the bacteria is. Washing will, unfortunately, not remove all of the Salmonella bacteria. And when you peel or cut into the peel, any bacteria on the surface will be transferred to the flesh of the cucumber. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have these cucumbers, it’s best to just throw them out. Then wash your hands and any place the cucumbers touched with soap and water.

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