A multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to imported Mexican cucumbers has apparently sickened more than 300 people from 27 states and hospitalized 53 of them, according to an alert posted Friday afternoon by the New Mexico Department of Health and additional reporting by Food Safety News.
The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber. It is dark green in color and typical length is 7 to 10 inches. In retail locations it is typically sold in a bulk display without any individual packaging or plastic wrapping.
A statement released Friday by the California Department of Public Health reported that there has been one related death in California, and that additional cases were continuing to come in.
California health department officials stated that Andrew & Williamson had initiated a voluntary recall of their garden cucumbers after being informed of the epidemiologic association between these cucumbers and the Salmonella Poona outbreak.
“The recalled garden cucumbers can be identified in distribution channels as ‘Limited Edition’ brand pole grown cucumbers. The labeling on these cases indicates the product was grown and packed by Rancho Don Juanito in Mexico. These cucumbers were distributed between August 1 – September 3, 2015,” the department stated. However, consumers may not see the “Limited Edition” bulk boxes when the cucumbers are put out for sale.
The Mexican cucumbers being linked to the current S. Poona outbreak are not the long, thin ones that come wrapped in plastic (English cucumbers) nor the small pickle-shaped type (Persian cucumbers). They are the thick-skinned, unwrapped type of garden-variety cucumbers and were sent to grocery stores and restaurants in New Mexico and other states through a produce distributor.
California health officials sent out a photo of a box of the recalled cucumbers, noting that, “It is unlikely that cucumbers in retail grocery stores will have any identifying brand information. CDPH recommends that consumers check with their grocer to determine if the cucumbers they purchased are impacted by this warning.”
People who are at high risk for Salmonella infection include: infants, elderly, those with compromised immune systems, including persons on immunosuppressive therapies or medications, and pregnant women. Healthy adults rarely develop severe illness. It is important for people at high risk to follow the standard CDC guidance about Salmonella. People can decrease their risk of Salmonella infection through proper food handling and preparation and by practicing proper hand washing and hygiene practices.
Eating food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, an uncommon but potentially serious infection. Salmonellosis is characterized by an acute onset of headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. Dehydration, especially among infants, may be severe.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Among people for whom information is available, illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to August 26, 2015. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 99, with a median age of 13. Fifty-four percent of ill people are children younger than 18 years. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Among 160 people with available information, 53 (33%) report being hospitalized. One death has been reported from California.”
Thursday’s total case count was 285, and the total on Friday was said to have climbed higher than that.
“I know that it’s over 300 now,” Mark DiMenna, deputy director of the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, told Food Safety News.
The states reporting cases of Salmonella poisoning from these cucumbers so far are:
Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and reached customers through retail, food service companies, wholesalers, and brokers.
If you feel uncertain about the cucumbers at your local grocery market or chain store, ask the manager of the vegetable section about where the cucumbers are from and if they’ve been checked as part of the recall.