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Hawaii papayas ‘safe to eat’ despite salmonella outbreak on the mainland, state officials say

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  • GEORGE F. LEE / 2018

    Organic papaya farmed by Yao Cheng at the Makuu Farmers market near Keaau.

Hawaii papayas are safe to eat despite a salmonella outbreak that has resulted in illnesses reported in eight other states, local officials say.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating an outbreak of 62 salmonella illnesses linked to fresh papayas imported from Mexico.

The state Department of Health and the state Department of Agriculture said there is no reason to avoid eating locally-grown papayas.

“The FDA has informed me that their investigations are centered on papayas imported from Mexico,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser in a written statement. “Our state’s papaya-loving community should be reassured that the fruit grown in Hawaii has not been linked to the outbreak which is mainly occurring in the Northeastern U.S.”

Illnesses have been reported in Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, according to the FDA. The CDC advised consumers in those states to throw away the papayas from Mexico.

Of the 62 illnesses, 60 were reported in the Northeastern six states.

“One patient from Florida who was reported ill had traveled to Connecticut before becoming ill,” according to FDA in a written statement. “Another patient from Texas was also reported ill, and at this time additional information about this patient is being collected. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”

All Hawaii-grown papaya is safe to eat, said Lori Nagatoshi, chief of DOH Food & Drug Branch, in a statement.

“Fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet, and the best way to reduce the risk of illness from fresh produce is to wash it thoroughly under running water or cook it,” Nagatoshi said.

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