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  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

FDA Investigated Multiple Salmonella Infections Linked to Frozen Shredded Coconut

Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)

February 15, 2018

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, investigated multiple Salmonella illnesses that are linked to imported frozen shredded coconut.

Fast Facts

  • The FDA advised consumers not to eat recalled Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut because the product has the potential to cause salmonellosis.
  • The recalled frozen shredded coconut was linked to 27 salmonellosis illnesses from nine states, the CDC reports. Illnesses ranged from January 9, 2017, to November 4, 2017. This outbreak appears to be over.
  • Multiple coconut samples tested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health were positive for Salmonella, including the same strain of Salmonella that caused illnesses.
  • On Jan. 3, 2018, Evershing International Trading Company announced a recall of its 16 ounce packages of Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut currently on the market. This coconut product was distributed in Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, and Texas.

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What was the Problem and What is being Done About It?

The FDA, CDC, and several states and local officials investigated multiple Salmonella infections. CDC reports that 27 people were infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- or Salmonella Newport from nine states (CA, CO, CT, MA, NJ, NY, OK, PA and WA). Of the 16 people for whom information was available, 10 reported eating or maybe eating coconut. Of these 10 people, 8 reported having an Asian-style dessert drink that contained frozen shredded coconut.

State partners assisted the FDA in the investigation by obtaining information about drink preparation, ingredients and suppliers, and by testing various ingredients used to prepare the drinks, including frozen shredded coconut, and several other products. All of these initial samples tested negative for the outbreak strains.

The FDA also obtained distribution information from firms associated with drink ingredient sourcing, and collected additional samples, which tested negative for the outbreak strains.

In November 2017, laboratory testing of a sample from coconut milk made in one restaurant in New York did not identify the outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:-, but identified a strain of Salmonella Newport. This sample was composed of multiple ingredients and none of those ingredients were from intact containers. WGS showed that the Salmonella Newport isolated from the coconut milk was closely related genetically to a Salmonella Newport isolate from an ill person from Massachusetts who had consumed an Asian-style dessert drink.

In the course of investigating the outbreak, on December 27, 2017, FDA notified Evershing International Trading Company that an intact sample of its frozen coconut had been tested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and was found positive for Salmonella. The strain of Salmonella found by officials in Massachusetts did not match that found in ill people. However, because the coconut was contaminated, Evershing International Trading Company announced a recall of its 16-ounce Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut on January 3, 2018. Consumers who have any of this recalled frozen coconut in their homes should not consume the product and may return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund.

On January 12, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported nine out of 10 additional samples of frozen coconut tested by the agency were positive for various strains of Salmonella, including those strains seen in ill people. All of the coconut samples tested by officials in Massachusetts were from the lots recalled by Evershing on January 3, 2018. Laboratory testing by officials in Massachusetts confirmed that samples of Coconut Tree Brand frozen shredded coconut identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:-.

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What are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infection?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

How Soon After Exposure do Symptoms Appear?

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

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What are the Complications of Salmonella Infections?

In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Who is at Risk?

Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. Children younger than five, the elderly, and those people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections. 

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What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?

Restaurants and retailers should  have examined their inventories for recalled products, not used any of recalled products, and returned any such product they had in their establishments to the point of purchase.
Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who served any potentially contaminated coconut need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils. They should have followed the steps below:

  • Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
  • Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
  • Wash hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces and utensils used in food preparation may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
  • Avoid cross contamination through contact with crates or other containers where potentially contaminated products were held or shipped. Wash and sanitize such containers as appropriate.

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What Do Consumers Need To Do?

Consumers should not have consumed or purchased recalled products and may return any such products in their home to the original point of purchase for a refund. Refer to this recall notice for more information regarding the packaging appearance and information.
For refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with potentially contaminated shredded coconut, it is very important that the consumers thoroughly clean and sanitize these areas and items.
Consumers should follow these simple steps: 

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or new paper towel.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. 
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly. 
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.

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Who Should be Contacted?

If you think you might have become ill from eating potentially contaminated coconut, talk to your health care provider. Contact your health care provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine. The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern Time, or to consult the fda.gov website: http://www.fda.gov.

Additional Information

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