A Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers continues to sicken people despite recalls issued months ago and an import ban on cucumbers from the implicated Mexican farm. How is this possible?
Food Poisoning Bulletin asked this question months ago when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued previous updates. Recalls for implicated cucumbers, which have a shelf a life of about two weeks, were issued in September. And symptoms of a Salmonella infection usually appear within six to 72 hours of exposure. Yet, people sickened by the three outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have reported onset of illness as recently as this month.
Although illnesses have been reported since July 2015, this outbreak was announced by the CDC on September 3, 2015. Cucumber recalls were issued September 4 and September 11, 2015. On September 14 and September 23 the the FDA issued import alerts about the implicated farm, Rancho Don Juanito de R.L. de C.V. located in Baja, Mexico. For these alerts, which essentially bar cucumbers from this farm entry to the U.S., to be lifted “Rancho Don Juanito de R.L. de C.V. should demonstrate that they have identified potential sources and routes of contamination and have taken steps to prevent future contamination,” according to the FDA.
The FDA has stated in each of its updates that it is “moving quickly to investigate this issue and learn as much as possible to prevent additional people from becoming ill.” While that’s probably true, there is some important information missing from these public reports. How are tainted cucumbers somehow still on the market?
Since September, when the recalls mentioned above were issued, there have been no further public recalls associated with this outbreak. In fact, since September, there has only been one cucumber recall posted on the FDA’s recall page. That recall, for cucumbers distributed in Florida and Georgia, stated no illnesses had been linked to the recalled product.
Over the last six months, 888 people in 39 states have been sickened by Salmonella in cucumbers. Almost 200 of them have been hospitalized. It’s hard to prevent people from becoming ill when there is no current information that can help them to avoid purchasing and consuming food that is contaminated with deadly bacteria.