Statement of CSPI Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs Sarah Sorscher

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers in six East Coast states not to eat any whole, fresh papayas from Mexico. The warning was given after Mexican papayas were linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda that has sickened 62 people, 23 of whom were hospitalized. There have been no reported deaths.

Approximately 80 percent of U.S. papayas are imported from Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is not the first time Mexican papayas have been tied to a Salmonella outbreak in the United States. In 2017, another outbreak tied to Maradol Papayas from Mexico affected 220 people in 23 states and caused one death. And in 2011, more than 100 people were infected in another Salmonella outbreak tied to Mexican papayas.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently working to identify the brand names and farms that produced the papayas implicated in the outbreak. The FDA has a standing import alert in place requiring papayas to be tested from Salmonella, unless the importer appears on the “Green List” of trusted importers.

The import protections FDA has in place are clearly not working. Rather than rely on third-party testing, the FDA should directly inspect the farms these fruits may have come from and ensure they are meeting food safety standards. If the safety of the farms cannot be guaranteed, the FDA should consider whether the papayas should be allowed to be imported at all.