With at least 29 people sick, Minnesota has been hit hard in the Salmonella Poona outbreak linked to imported cucumbers. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) was one of the first departments to recognize this outbreak and to help pinpoint the source.
Some of the people sickened in Minnesota were part of an outbreak cluster linked to salads served at Red Lobster restaurants. Red Lobster pulled cucumbers from all of its restaurants on September 4, 2015. The cases in Minnesota range in age from 8 to 79 years and live in nine metro and greater Minnesota counties. At least six people were hospitalized, based on the latest information from MDH.
Epidemiological and traceback investigations found that slicer, or “American” cucumbers imported and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce of San Diego, California was the source of the outbreak. The cucumbers were voluntarily recalled by that company on September 4, 2015.
But there was, and is, confusion about where the cucumbers were actually sold. Some of the customers listed on the Andrew & Williamson web site contacted us and stated categorically that they were not part of the outbreak. We know that the cucumbers were sold at “some” locations of Walmart, WinCo, Savemart, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less since those stores posted recall information. We also know that US Foods, a distributor, posted recall information on their web site. And restaurants that may have sold the contaminated cucumbers besides Red Lobster include In-N-Out Burgers, Capital Grille, and Olive Garden. No distribution list of stores or restaurants that sold the recalled cucumbers has been posted, which would clarify matters and give consumers more information.
We do know that the cucumbers were definitely distributed in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. But they may have been distributed in other states as well, which is causing more confusion.
Nationwide, at least 558 people in 33 states have been sickened in this outbreak as of September 22, 2015. Since most Salmonella infections go unreported, and the multiplier is 30.3, that means almost 17,000 people around the country could be sick in this outbreak.
The hospitalization rate is 29%, which is higher than the normal 20% in most Salmonella outbreaks. Most of the patients in this outbreak are children under the age of 18, which may explain the high hospitalization rate. Children are more susceptible to complications from food poisoning infections because their immune systems are still developing.
For now, the best advice is to see a doctor if you have eaten cucumbers and have experienced the symptoms of a Salmonella infection. Those symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloody stools, fever, headache, and chills. Salmonella is a reportable illness, so if you are sick with this infection, your doctor will inform local health officials.