Chlorine works: Reducing Salmonella outbreaks in mangoes

The new crop of Australian mangoes is starting to arrive in spring-like Brisbane (because it’s more like summer with temps expected to hit 40 C this weekend), and they are delicious.

A team in one University of Connecticut lab recently processed 4,000 mangoes and water samples to test the efficacy of three disinfectants commonly used by the industry to avoid contamination.

To the utter surprise of researcher Mary Anne Amalaradjou, they found an unlikely candidate was extremely effective: chlorine. “When I saw the results, I didn’t believe it. So we re-ran the test ten times,” says the assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science.

Amalaradjou will present her findings at a meeting of the National Mango Board.

Salmonella is a frequent culprit for outbreaks in mangoes because it makes its way into the water used to wash the fruit in processing plants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Salmonella leads to approximately 1.2 million cases of Salmonellosis each year in the United States and around 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

“We had several outbreaks of people getting sick. The worrying part was the illnesses were not from cut mangoes, these were from mangoes they bought whole,” says Amalaradjou, whose work focuses on food safety and in finding new approaches to control or prevent foodborne illnesses.

In mango processing plants, the wash water is housed in gigantic tanks and once the water is contaminated, the bacteria are able to attach to the fruit’s skin and then enter the fruit’s pulp. Once bacteria make their way into the fruit, no amount of washing can remove them. With so many mangoes washed at once, the number of contaminated mangoes can be numerous, potentially causing many cases of Salmonellosis.

mango tropical fruit with male hand picking fruit from tree

Recognizing the danger, the Center for Produce Safety and the National Mango Board funded Amalaradjou’s study.  After taking on the project, Amalaradjou traveled to a mango processing plant to see the source of the contamination, the big wash water tanks, for herself in order to learn the processes so she could adapt them to a smaller-scale laboratory set up.

Amalaradjou was surprised by the results because chlorine is not very effective in the wash step for most produce. For one reason or another, from lettuce, to tomatoes to apples, chlorine simply doesn’t reliably kill Salmonella.

With mangoes, Amalaradjou found, chlorine cleaned the wash water and also helped prevent cross-contamination by cleaning the mangoes themselves.

One of the other challenges the research group had to tackle was not only effective Salmonella killing, but doing so with affordable and easily implementable measures on a large scale. Because chlorine is already used in the wash water, all that the processing plants need to do is to monitor the levels frequently to keep it at an effective concentration.

Has that mango been irradiated or you just happy to see me

A trans-Tasman review into the necessity of labelling food treated with ionizing radiation has drawn a mixed response from industry groups, consumers and activists.

Radura.mangoWhile most industry groups and corporations that produced submissions to Food Standards Australia New Zealand were supportive of removing the labelling, all but one of the private citizen submissions were against the idea.

The body will not propose a removal of the current labelling requirements at this stage, but asked respondents whether they thought the countries’ approach to signaling irradiated food was effective or necessary at present.

Irradiation, which is used as both a pest control method and way of extending food’s shelf life, is a rare practice in the two countries, used mainly as a final quarantine measure to prevent the spread of fruit flies.

Some mangoes are treated using irradiation.

Five FSANZ studies over the last 15 years and numerous World Health Organisation reports have found the irradiation process is safe, but food manufacturers are required to add a label informing consumers food has been processed in this way.

The wording of the labelling is not proscribed, though manufacturers can add an optional Radura symbol, the internationally recognised identifier of irradiated food.

Why didn’t they do this before? Eastern cantaloupe, mango growers now super serious about food safety

Two unrelated items from The Packer that both beg the question: what took you so long?

The formation of the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association follows a string of cantaloupe recalls, including a deadly 2011 listeria outbreak linked to mango.dec.12cantaloupe from Jensen Farms, Holly, Colo., and an August multistate outbreak traced to Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc., Owensville, Ind.

Food safety standards adopted by the group are the subject of a Feb. 11 meeting in Atlanta. More than a dozen retailers were anticipated at the meeting.

Growers from Indiana to Florida met in Atlanta in early January to discuss food safety, agreeing to form the association.

To display the group’s seal, growers are required to maintain Global Food Safety Initiative auditing metrics which include water specifications, soil amendments and sanitation and equipment cleaning standards that exceed those mandated by GFSI, Hall said.

Audits from any third-party auditor with GFSI benchmarking is accepted in the program, and growers must have at least one surprise audit during production to ensure adherance to the association’s standards, he said.

Meanwhile, the National Mango Board is inviting growers, packers, handlers and importers to the first mango food safety conference.

A table of cantaloupe-related outbreaks is available at:

Most recently, 143 people in Canada and the U.S. were sickened with Salmonella from Mexican mangoes.

23 Canadians sickened from Salmonella in mangoes from Mexico; outbreak over

In honor of Canadian health types declaring the end of a Salmonella-in-Mexican-mango outbreak, I did what any self-respecting Canadian would do while in Florida in Dec.: go to a Tampa Bay Lightening game made a mango-berry-lime-rum-drink thingy.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has declared the outbreak over, with the last person becoming ill on Aug. 23, 2012.

143 people in the U.S. and Canada were sickened.

The investigation is closed.

Cheers to that.

143 sickened; ‘PLUs were a mess’ mango board pledges improvements

With at least 143 Americans and Canadians sickened with Salmonella Braenderup linked to mangoes from Agricola Daniella of Sinaloa, Mexico, this fall, the National Mango Board decided it might be an apt time to review good agricultural practices (GAPs).

The Packer reports William Watson, executive director of the National Mango Board, told Fresh Summit 2012 attendees the board has undertaken a risk assessment in mango producing nations of Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala and the U.S. A scientific advisory board is being formed to review findings of the risk assessment and develop good agricultural practices – especially for post-harvest operations.

Watson reminded the mango producers and importers that the commodity board’s activities are limited by federal law. He said the board is working with the Food and Drug Administration to develop the GAPs, which should be available to the industry by winter 2013.

“I know now that there are things I would have done differently,” Watson said. “We could have been two or three days faster getting information out. The PLUs were a mess.”

Many consumers and mainstream news reporters were confused about the price lookup codes listed initially by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency early in the recall. The mango board issued statements explaining that the PLUs relate to varieties and sizes of mangoes and not specific brands, but media reports had already done the damage.

143 sickened; multistate outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup infections associated with mangoes

The spring crop of mangoes has arrived in Brisbane; had a couple yesterday and they are better than I remember, smaller and more flavorful, with a hint of lime.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports in its final update that an outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup that sickened at least 127 persons in 15 states was linked to mangoes from Mexico.

On September 13, FDA placed Agricola Daniella of Sinaloa, Mexico on Import Alert. This means that Agricola Daniella mangoes will be denied admission into the United States unless the importer shows they are not contaminated with Salmonella.

During August 2012, CDC investigated a multistate outbreak of 16 Salmonella Worthington infections reported from 3 states.

Ill persons were reported from similar states and during the same time period as seen in the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak; 89% of ill persons with Salmonella Worthington who were interviewed reported consuming mangoes in the week before their illness began.

One case in the Salmonella Braenderup outbreak was also infected with Salmonella Worthington, a finding that suggests a possible connection between the two outbreaks.

When the mango bites back

As a large-scale outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup appears to be forming in Canada and the U.S. from Mexican mangoes, New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris, who has written plenty about food safety over the years, has his own crappy experience with mangoes in India.

Harris writes he accepted a just picked mango from a stranger in New Delhi and that putting it directly into my mouth — skin and all — was stupid.

“But why did my first horrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in India have to result from a mango? I love mangoes, and India’s vast array of deliciously different mango varieties has been one of the great delights of moving here.

“You didn’t even wash it?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, asked me later.


“Even by your standards, that was really stupid,” Dr. Offit said.

“Indeed, my wife joined me for the first week of my stay here before returning temporarily to the United States, and within four days she became terribly ill. I freely dispensed what turned out to be terrible advice, suggesting in the early hours of her illness that she avoid taking one of the antibiotic pills that we had brought for just such an eventuality.

“My advice sprang from the mistaken belief that the good bacteria in her gut had a fighting chance against the bad bacteria. “Honey, taking an antibiotic is like carpet-bombing a battlefield,” I told her in confident tones. “You kill off all the good guys as well as the bad guys. Let’s see if the good guys rally first.

“They did not. As it turns out, the fight against toxic bacteria is largely waged by the body’s immune system, not the sweet-tempered millions found in a spoonful of yogurt.”

At least he admitted he was dumb. But how much dumb – or slanted – advice was spewed out in the pages of the N.Y. Times over the years?

Going public: Mexican mangoes, first fingered in Canada, now linked to at least 79 illness in US

How do health agencies decide when to go public with information about an outbreak of foodborne illness that makes a lot of people barf?

There’s at least 73 people in California who would probably like to know after being sickened with Salmonella Braenderup, the same strain that Canadian health types revealed had sickened 22 people on Saturday.

California, you got beat by Canada in going public? This isn’t hockey, it’s public health, but adds to the embarrassing and accumulating record of silence on produce–related outbreaks.

And it doesn’t help when the story is broken by the USA Today; were you really just waiting around for someone to ask?

Daniella-brand mangoes imported from Mexico are being withdrawn from sale in the United States because of a possible link to salmonella. Splendid Products of Burlingame, Calif, which distributes the fruit, issued the voluntary recall Monday "out of an abundance of caution," says general manager Larry Nienkerk.

Or an abundance of people barfing.

Washington state has had six cases of salmonella that match the genetic fingerprint of the Canadian cases but has not yet linked them directly to the Mexican mangoes, says Donn Moyer of the Washington State Department of Health in Olympia. "We’re still looking into it."

Yes, there are always uncertainties involved; which would be much more understandable if every agency would make clear the criteria they use for when or when not to inform the public about a lot of barf.

22 confirmed sick from Salmonella in Mexican mangoes in Canada

Canadian government types remain hopeless about talking about food safety basics.

For all its talk of a single food inspection system, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can do no better than say, “there have been several confirmed illnesses associated with the consumption of these mangoes.”

It’s up to Health Canada to say how many are sick, which they did on a Saturday afternoon. The PR flunkies probably were paid double-time to produce this gem.

“Table 1, below, shows where and how many illnesses have been reported to date. The Public Health Agency of Canada will update this table weekly during the course of the investigation.

Table 1. Location and number of Salmonella Braenderup infections
as of August 22, 2012
Location Confirmed cases
British Columbia 17
Alberta 5

“What you should do

“If you have the product, do not eat it. Secure it in a plastic bag and throw it out. Then wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water.

“Everyone can protect themselves against Salmonella infections by taking proper precautions when handling and preparing foods.”

Salmonella is in your hands; not the mango growers, distributers or retailers, but consumers.

Why do taxpayers pay to be reminded that foodborne illness is their fault – when it isn’t?

The press release also has some advice, like to protect yourself from Salmonella, “wash your hands thoroughly after feeding or handling pets.”

I’m not sure what that has to do with Mexican mangoes.

The paternalistic press release also says people should practice these general food safety precautions at all times. Those tips are about cooking temperatures for meat.

It’s still summer in Canada, most people will go back to sleep.

Several people sick; Mexican mangoes sold in Canada may contain Salmonella Braenderup

I don’t like mangoes. I’ve tried because they grow in trees on front lawns in Brisbane, but the flesh is too pulpy; makes an excellent juice though.

For those Canadians living tropical fantasies for the last days of summer, beware those mangoes from Mexico.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and North American Produce Sales are warning the public not to consume the mangoes described below because they may be contaminated with Salmonella Braenderup bacteria.

The affected Mangoes, product of Mexico, were sold as individual fruit with a sticker bearing PLU# 4959 and other information. These mangoes were sold at various retail stores between July 12 and August 14, 2012. Consumers are advised to contact the retailer to find out if you have the affected mangoes. If you have illness symptoms or any health concerns possibly associated with these mangoes, please contact your family doctor.

These mangoes may have been distributed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

There have been several confirmed illnesses associated with the consumption of these mangoes.