In the U.S. 285 people are suffering from Salmonella infections that appear to have come from an unlikely source: cucumbers. Tragically, there has been one death associated with the outbreak, and 53 people have been hospitalized, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It is likely that the cucumbers were sourced from Mexico before they were shipped around the U.S. by a Californian distributor. In total, 27 states have reported cases of patients infected with a strain called Salmonella Poona.
The cucumbers were identified as the likely source after the people affected were interviewed. When asked what they had eaten in the week before their illness began, 73% of the interviewees (58 out of 80) reported having eaten cucumber. Authorities investigated likely suppliers of the cucumbers, and traced the trail back to Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce in San Diego, California. Product testing of cucumbers at the site is underway.
In a statement, the company president Fred Williamson said that no other produce is included in the recall. "The safety and welfare of consumers is the highest priority for our company," he added. "We are taking all precautions possible to prevent further consumption of this product and are working to learn if and how these cucumbers are involved in the ongoing outbreak."
The highest number of incidents are in western states, with Arizona (60) having the most cases, followed by California (51). However, the outbreak has made its way as far as New York, with four cases reported there.
Salmonella infections are often associated with raw meat, especially chicken. So, it might come as a surprise that cucumbers seem to be the culprit in this situation. However, green vegetables, fruit and shellfish can become contaminated if they come into contact with manure in soil or sewage in water. Contamination can also occur if this produce is stored next to raw, contaminated food.
Salmonella most adversely affects the young, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. The single death associated with this outbreak was a 99-year-old woman, and more than half of the infected people are under the age of 18.
Local authorities are working to recall any cucumbers that are in restaurants where infected people ate, as well as supermarkets they shopped in. The public are advised to dispose of cucumbers from Andrews and Williamson Fresh Produce and should ask retailers or restaurants what company supplied their cucumbers before buying them.