Chicago – The Illinois Department of Public Health said it is investigating 17 cases of salmonella that occurred this year in Chicago and other cities in the state that could be linked to possibly tainted papayas imported from Mexico.
The department said in a communique that eight people were hospitalized. Nine cases were detected in Chicago and surrounding Cook County, four in suburban DuPage County and one each in Kane, Lake, Will and Winnebago counties.
It added that the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are using DNA analysis of the salmonella bacteria to investigate cases of the illness, which could be connected to the non-lethal outbreak that affected 97 people in 23 states between Jan. 1 and July 18.
The importer Agromod Produce Inc. of McAllen, Texas, decided to voluntarily withdraw from the market all Mexican papayas of the Blondie, Yaya, Mañanita and Tastylicious brands distributed in the United States before July 23.
According to a communique, the FDA recently located sources of contamination in two samples of papaya taken from an Agromod plant in Texas and in samples taken from shipments stopped at the border that were headed for the firm in McAllen.
The FDA recommended not eating papayas imported by Agromod, while the company itself recommended that anyone who bought those brands should wrap the fruit in plastic and throw it in the trash.
Mexican authorities said it was premature to link Mexican papayas with the cases of salmonella in Illinois.
Authorities in Mexico and the United States are carrying out investigations in both countries "to determine the origin of the salmonella outbreak and the source of the bacteria," the Mexican counterpart of the FDA, known by the acronym Senasica, said in a communique.
"We're in constant coordination...with the goal of finding the exact source of the contamination and not jumping to conclusions before doing the investigation," Senasica director Enrique Sanchez Cruz said.
He said that Mexican health authorities have been asked to take part in the investigation, and that they report no domestic outbreak of salmonella linked with eating papaya.
Senasica permanently carries out preventive measures to reduce risks of contamination in vegetable gardens and during harvesting, warehousing, packing and shipping, Sanchez Cruz said.