Three people have died and hundreds have become ill after they ate tainted cucumbers imported from Mexico.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there have been 558 cases of salmonella poona infections linked to the cucumbers in 33 states, with 140 new cases reported to the CDC between September 15 and September 22, Vice News (vice.com) reports.
The number of illnesses is expected to rise as more health departments release figures. A law firm that specializes in foodborne illnesses has been retained by people from California, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Oklahoma. Several of these people have been hospitalized, with one spending nearly a week in the ICU, Vice News reports.
Salmonella infections cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping that lasts between four and seven days. Most people recover without treatment, though for some, the diarrhea is severe enough to require hospitalization. The bacteria can sometimes spread from the intestines to the blood stream and to other parts of the body. In these cases, salmonella can result in death if the patient does not receive antibiotics. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are most likely to become seriously ill.
In this outbreak, a 46-year-old Arizona woman was sent from urgent care to the emergency room for care. She suffered a 102-degree fever, night sweats, chills, and headaches and even with antibiotic treatment, her gastrointestinal symptoms lasted nearly four weeks, according to Vice News. She has filed a lawsuit. A suit has also been filed by the parents of a 5-year-old boy who became ill after eating cucumbers. The boy’s illness started with diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain, but the infection made its way to his urinary tract. He suffered pain and passed blood clots when he tried to urinate, according to the lawsuit.
Investigators traced the outbreak to the San Diego distributor Andrew & Williamson Sales Co., which imported the cucumbers from Rancho Don Juanito de R.L. de C.V. in Baja, Mexico, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On September 4, the company recalled all cucumbers labeled “Limited Edition.”
Andrew & Williamson is the distributor that supplied frozen strawberries tainted with hepatitis to schools in 1997. One hundred and ninety-seven students and teachers in three states became ill, prompting a federal probe, according to Vice News. A&W admitted to participating taking part in the fraudulent sale of nearly two million pounds of frozen Mexican-grown strawberries to the US Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program and hiding the fact that they weren’t grown domestically. The company agreed to pay the government $1.3 million as part of a 1997 civil settlement, and A&W’s then-president, Frederick Williamson, served five months in prison.
Current A&W partner David Murray told Vice News, “A&W is a different company than it was in the 1990s, and we learned a great deal from that experience.” He added that A&W’s facility is open to customers any time to see food safety practices for themselves.
A&W announced last week that it would make a donation to the nonprofit group STOP Foodborne Illness for an educational packet to improve diagnosis at pediatric emergency rooms and hospitals.