The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday warned consumers not to eat papayas from the Agromod Produce Inc., a distributor in McAllen, Texas, as it investigates 97 reported cases of salmonella.

The agency said there have been 10 hospitalizations in 23 states related to eating these papayas.

In the meantime, the Texas company is voluntarily recalling the FDA detected salmonella matching the outbreak strain. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in children and elderly with weakened immune systems.

Fresh, Whole Papayas were distributed nationwide and to Canada through retail stores and wholesalers, a press release from Agronod Produce Inc. stated.

The company is now recalling all Blondie, Yaya, Mañanita, and Tastylicious brand of papayas sold before July 23. Each Blondie Brand of papaya can be identified by a blue and orange sticker labeled with green and white lettering on the fruit stating Blondie 4395 Mexico.

Consumers can identify the Yaya brand by its yellow, red, orange, and green label with white, green and red lettering that reads Yaya Premium Papayas Yaya PLU-4395 Mexico, according to the company. The Mañanita brand of papayas have a green, yellow and red sticker label that states Mexico Mañanita 4395, while the Tastylicious brand of papayas have a white and blue sticker with red and white lettering that states 4395 Tastylicious MEXICO.

Consumers and retailers who have these fruits from Agromod Produce Inc. must throw them in a sealed container so people and animals, including wild animals, cannot eat them, the FDA cautioned.

The investigation, which also involves the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, is still ongoing.

Here is an excerpt from the CDC that you must read to inform yourself about the papayas.

What is the Problem?

The FDA is taking steps to protect the public following the identification of Salmonella Agona in Agromod Produce, Inc.'s supply of fresh papayas. The FDA is advising consumers not to eat papayas from Agromod Produce, Inc. The company is voluntarily recalling the product. The papayas were imported from Mexico, and may be linked to the reported cases of Salmonella Agona. Recent sampling by the FDA found the outbreak strain in two papaya samples: one collected at the Agromod Produce, Inc. location in McAllen, Texas, and one collected at the U.S. border destined for Agromod Produce, Inc. The shipments that tested positive with the outbreak strain were not distributed in the U.S.  

The FDA is working with Agromod Produce, Inc. to determine if previous shipments of potentially contaminated papaya could still be in U.S. commerce.

Agromod Produce, Inc. is voluntarily recalling all papayas sold prior to July 23, 2011.

What are the symptoms of illness/injury?

Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, some individuals may require hospitalization from severe diarrhea. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites. It can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from salmonella infection.

Who is at risk?

The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from salmonella infection. The bacterium can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in these vulnerable populations. Most healthy individuals recover from salmonella infections within four to seven days without treatment.

What do consumers and healthcare providers need to do?  

Consumers should examine fresh papayas for Agromod brand stickers identified below and in the firm's press release. Consumers who have purchased papayas are also advised to check with the retailer to see if the papayas they purchased are among those affected, or throw the product away. Consumers, retailers and others who have papayas from Agromod Produce, Inc. should throw them away in a sealed container so people and animals, including wild animals, cannot eat them. Consumers who think they may have become ill from eating possibly contaminated papaya should consult their health care providers.

Where is it distributed?

The products may have been distributed nationwide to wholesalers and retail stores in the U.S. and Canada.

What is being done about the problem?

FDA is investigating the problem in collaboration with the CDC and public health agencies in those states where illnesses have occurred. The investigation is ongoing.

The FDA is also working with state authorities to take appropriate action to make sure all recalled papaya is out of commerce. FDA is also working with Agromod Produce Inc. and with officials in Mexico to determine how the papayas may have become contaminated.

As part of this investigation, the FDA is taking regulatory action to prevent potentially contaminated papaya from entering the United States, including increasing its sampling of imported papaya. In addition to the two samples that tested positive for the outbreak strain, ten other papaya samples from Mexico have also tested positive with different strains of Salmonella; none of those sampled lots entered the United States.

What is latest information on the Illnesses?

A total of 97 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of salmonella agona have been reported from 23 states between Jan. 1 and July 18, 2011. The number of ill persons identified in each state with the outbreak strain is as follows: Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (7), Colorado (1), Georgia (8), Illinois (17), Louisiana (2), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (3), Missouri (3), Nebraska (2), Nevada (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (3), New York (6), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (25), Virginia (2), Washington (5), and Wisconsin (2).

The CDC and the FDA are collaborating with public health officials in many states to investigate a multistate outbreak of salmonella agona infections. Public health investigators are using DNA analysis of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.

Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began on or after January 17, 2011. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year old to 91 years old, and the median age is 20 years old. Forty-one percent of patients are younger than 5 years old. Sixty-three percent are female. Ten patients were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. For persons who have been interviewed, 57 percent report consuming papaya. Epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback information identifies papayas from Mexico imported through Agromod Produce, Inc. as a likely source of infection.

Who should be contacted?

Consumers with questions about the recalled papayas should call Agromod Produce, Inc. at (800) 385-7658. Consumers with questions about produce safety should contact 1-800-SAFEFOOD.