Cucumbers Recalled Over Possible Salmonella Contamination

Cucumbers Recalled Over Possible Salmonella Contamination

Cucumbers sold in 14 states are being recalled over Salmonella contamination concerns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a notice posted on Saturday.

The cucumbers were distributed by Fresh Start Produce Sales Inc., a wholesale produce company based in Florida. The possibly-contaminated cucumbers were shipped in bulk cartons from May 17 through May 21 to retail distribution centers, wholesalers, and food service distributors in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The cucumbers are “dark green, approximately 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, and 5 to 9 inches long,” the FDA said, noting that mini cucumbers and English cucumbers distributed by the company are not included in the recall.

The recall was issued after the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture found that a Fresh Start Produce Sales cucumber sample tested positive for Salmonella bacteria. The FDA is currently sequencing the genome of the bacteria to see if it’s linked to an ongoing Salmonella outbreak. However, it’s not yet clear how the cucumbers came to be contaminated.

So far, the FDA has not reported any illnesses in connection to the recall, and the cucumbers are probably no longer “in the marketplace.” Fresh Start Produce Sales also said it has reached out to its retail customers, and asked that they remove the possibly-contaminated cucumbers from their shelves and notify customers of the recall.

“There is nothing more important to Fresh Start Produce Sales than consumer health and safety. Last week, when learning of the issue, we immediately asked our customers to remove any inventory from the marketplace,” a company spokesperson told Health. “[The cucumbers] have a 10-12 day shelf life. So, while it is unlikely that the cucumbers are available for sale or in consumers’ kitchens, if consumers are in doubt, they should not consume the recalled product.”

Instead, customers who think they may have purchased the potentially-contaminated cucumbers should throw them away or return them for a refund.

If you live in one of the impacted states and are unsure if you have a recalled cucumber, the FDA recommends checking in with the store where you purchased the vegetable to see if the recalled produce was sold there.

Nustian Degraf / Getty Images

Salmonella can be found in foods such as raw poultry, meat, and eggs, which is why it’s so important to cook these foods properly and kill any potential bacteria before eating them. But since they’re usually eaten raw, contaminated fruits and vegetables may be more likely to get people sick.

In this specific instance, the FDA didn’t share how the cucumbers became contaminated with Salmonella. But the bacteria can get into vegetables through irrigation water, along with many other points in the food growing and processing chain, Darin Detwiler, PhD, author and associate teaching professor of food policy at Northeastern University, told Health. In fact, research shows that contaminated irrigation water is one of the main ways Salmonella ends up in fresh produce.

Ingesting contaminated food can lead to a Salmonella infection, also known as salmonellosis. There are about 1.35 million cases in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While many cases of salmonellosis are mild, causing diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain that can last for about a week, the infection can also cause some people to become seriously ill or even die. Young people, older adults, and those who are immunocompromised are at the greatest risk of having more severe Salmonella infections.

Since Fresh Start Produce Sales did not provide a lot code or product code in conjunction with this recall, it’s difficult to identify the potentially-contaminated cucumbers. If you’re vulnerable to getting a severe Salmonella infection, or just don’t feel like risking it, Detwiler said a “safe approach” is to avoid cucumbers if you live in one of the impacted states, particularly “until more information becomes available.”

To lower your risk of a Salmonella infection, the CDC recommends following good food safety habits—these include including cleaning hands and utensils, separating raw meat from other foods, cooking food to safe temperatures, and storing food at a cold temperature. In the case of raw produce, the best way to avoid salmonellosis is to pay attention to food recalls. Detwiler also recommended buying produce from trusted suppliers, and washing produce thoroughly under running water before eating.

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