(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 26) In the wake of an 18-state salmonella outbreak, U.S. officials issued an import alert on cucumbers from Mexican growers whose produce is distributed by Tricar Sales Inc., Rio Rico, Ariz.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an outbreak report April 25 referencing the import alert issues the day before by the Food and Drug Administration.
The CDC reported 73 people were confirmed with Salmonella Saintpaul with illness onsets reported from Jan. 12 through April 6. No deaths have been reported, but 14 people have had to be admitted to hospitals because of the salmonella infections.
Tricar Sales director of marketing and sales, Rod Sbragia, said the Food and Drug Administration has been in communication with the company since April 5. He said the FDA told company officials they did not have to recall produce because it is unlikely that any of the cucumbers remain in the stream of commerce, based on the illness onset dates.
The import alert applies only to imported cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico, and distributed by Tricar Sales Inc.
Cucumbers from the two firms may be denied admission into the U.S. until further notice unless the importer provides evidence that they are not contaminated with Salmonella, such as results from private laboratory tests of the cucumbers.
Sbragia said Tricar has been doing business with Izabal since 1949. He said Izabal is the principal grower for Tricar Sales. Sbragia said Tricar officials are not sure of the volume of cucumbers distributed in the U.S. during the time the illnesses were reported.
“At this time they have not linked anything for sure,” Sbragia said April 25. “We are cooperating fully with the FDA and have provided documentation and records they requested.
“We are looking for potential causes but have not found anything. the Mexican authorities are working with the growers to investigate possible sources of potential contamination.”
The FDA and CDC have been trying to pinpoint the source of the salmonella for weeks, said Doug Karas, public affairs specialist with FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network.
“Only recently could we identify the product and the suppliers — this was done with a combination of epidemiological interviews and through using shipping records to trace the cucumbers back to the suppliers,” Karas said.
“Although we are confident that cucumbers from these firms are linked to illnesses in this outbreak, currently, we have no evidence that contaminated cucumbers from these suppliers are still on the market.”
The CDC reported 30 out of 45 of the sick people reported eating cucumbers from grocery stores or in restaurants during the week before they became ill. Another five of those 45 sick people thought they might have eaten cucumbers before becoming ill.
“Reviewing shipping records, with assistance from its partner state agencies, FDA traced cucumbers eaten by six ill people to the distributer, Tricar Sales Inc., and further, to the suppliers, Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse,” the CDC reported.
The CDC notice said the agency is continuing to interview patients to determine the source of the salmonella, but preliminary findings were strong enough for the USDA to issue the import alert.
The states involved and the number of illnesses reported are: Arizona 9, California 28, Colorado 1, Idaho 2, Illinois 3, Louisiana 1, Massachusetts 1, Maryland 1, Minnesota 8, Nevada 1, New Mexico 2, North Carolina 1, Ohio 1, Oregon 2, South Dakota 2, Texas 6, Virginia 2 and Wisconsin 2.