If you like papayas, this news may make you go papay-no. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have just announced a Salmonella Uganda outbreak linked to papayas. But it’s not papayas from Uganda that should make you worry. It’s ”whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico and sold in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island” that you should avoid for now.
So far, there have been 62 reported cases of Salmonella infections in 8 states with 23 hospitalizations and no deaths. The earliest reported illnesses began on January 14, 2019, and the latest so far on June 8, 2019. Here is a table of reported cases by state as of June 26, 2019:
If you know your geography, you’ll notice that there are two states listed here that are not next to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The investigation has found that the person from Florida had traveled to Connecticut the week prior to getting sick. Public health officials are still investigating the Texas case, but so far, the belief is that the outbreak is limited to supplies of papayas from Mexico to those six Northeast states.
Therefore, if you live in those six states and have whole papayas that were imported from Mexico, toss them before you start tossing something else, like your “cookies” or your stool. As I have written before numerous times in the past couple years for previous Salmonella outbreaks, a Salmonella infection can lead to nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, which can be bloody diarrhea, as in “bloody heck” when will this diarrhea stop or actual blood in the stool. Some cases can lead to more serious complications and even death. Of course, don’t just avoid whole papayas from Mexico. Having them chopped up or mixed with other things isn’t going to protect you.
For now, do not eat papayas from Mexico on a boat, with a goat, in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse, here, there, or anywhere. If you don’t know whether your papaya is from Mexico, play it safe and in the words of that song from the movie Frozen, let it go. Oh, and don’t eat frozen papayas from Mexico either.
Well, this stinks. The situation stinks, that is, and not the papayas. Although some people complain that papayas smell or even taste like vomit, like the following:
Papayas never fail to taste like vomit. #food
— Susan Yara (@susanyara) June 9, 2013
In case you didn’t know and are still wearing ode d’vomit cologne, smelling like vomit is not considered to be positive thing. This smell and taste comes from an enzyme in the fruit called papain. Papain is actually a positive enzyme, helping break down protein and thus potentially assisting with your digestion. Papayas have lots of other healthy aspects such as being relatively low in calories and chock-full of cook stuff such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. They also have anti-oxidants and some calcium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B3, B5, E and K.
Besides getting rid of suspect papayas, thoroughly clean anything that may have touched them. That includes utensils, containers, counter tops, pillow cases, and refrigerators. The CDC offers the following steps on cleaning you refrigerator:
- Throw out any suspicious food. The CDC indicates “recalled” food but this should include any suspicious food. Suspicious doesn’t mean food that looks at you askance but food that may be contaminated with Salmonella. This includes putting all the papayas and anything that may have touched them in a sealed bag before properly throwing it away. Putting the papayas in your friend’s mouth does not constitute properly disposing of the food.
- Empty your refrigerator. This includes both the food and everything that can be removed such as shelving and drawers. If your refrigerator already has nothing in it, you are clearly single.
- Wash removable parts. In this case, this refers to removable parts from your refrigerator and from something else. You should wash each item with hot, soapy water (unless they are heat-sensitive), rinse them, and dry them with a clean towel. If you dry everything with a dirty towel, you are completely defeating the purpose.
- Clean and sanitize inside the refrigerator. Again use hot, soapy water, rinse off the soap, and dry with a clean towel.
- Return shelves, drawers, and food. This is a helpful step because refrigerator shelves and drawers work best when they are actually located in the refrigerator. Similarly, refrigerating food means keeping them in the refrigerator not simply around it.
Note that all of these steps should be done in fairly rapid sequence so that you don’t keep the food outside the refrigerator for longer than two hours. Cleaning a refrigerator should not be a two-week project, interspersed with binge-watching Game of Thrones.
So for now, simply smelling like vomit is not the only concern about papayas from Mexico. Some have suggested that squirting lime juice on papayas can counter the papain smell and taste. But that won’t keep you from smelling like vomit if you get a Salmonella infection.