Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Peaches Implicated in the Summer 2020 Outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis
Between August and October 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and multiple state and federal partners investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to peaches packed or supplied by a large grower/producer. In total, in the U.S. there were 101 reported illnesses across 17 states. Based on the historical outbreak data, this multistate outbreak appears to represent a novel commodity/pathogen pair. The epidemiological and traceback investigation identified the large grower/producer’s packinghouses, cooling facilities and/or orchards as a potential source of the peaches and helped prioritize investigational activities.
The investigation did not result in finding the outbreak strain (via whole genome sequencing (WGS)) in investigation samples, however, numerous Salmonella isolates were found in samples collected from the peach orchards. Multiple Salmonella isolates from product (peach) and peach tree leaf sampling activities conducted during this investigation genetically resembled historical chicken and cattle isolates not associated with this outbreak or any known foodborne illnesses. Geospatial analyses of the orchards that supplied fresh peaches during the period of interest, coupled with WGS analysis that showed closely related Salmonella isolates from peach/leaf and historical animal samples, suggested several plausible opportunities for contamination including from airborne transmission of fugitive dust possibly originating from adjacent animal operations (e.g., poultry or cattle). The large grower/producer cooperated with FDA throughout the investigation and is continuing to engage with FDA on the agency’s findings and recommendations.
FDA views the implementation of appropriate science-and-risk-based produce safety interventions as the most effective and practicable means to enhance the safety of fresh produce. Food safety is a shared responsibility that involves food producers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and regulators. FDA also recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment when it comes to public health outcomes. As such, we strongly encourage collaboration among various groups in the broader agricultural community (i.e., operators of animal production, produce growers, state and federal government agencies, and academia) to address this issue. With this collaboration, those managing animal operations, alongside other industry, academic, and government partners, can work to identify and implement measures to reduce the likelihood of fresh produce contamination with human pathogens as in this case with tree fruit.
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