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News Brief: DPH discovers salmonella in frozen coconut

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By Thursday, Jan 11, 2018 News

Boston — Disease investigators at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have traced a rare strain of salmonella to frozen shredded coconut, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the distributor to issue a multistate recall.

According to the FDA, testing performed by Massachusetts led Evershing International Trading Company to announce a recall of Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut (Item number 331223, UPC 05216-44081) packaged in 16-ounce plastic bags. The product is distributed in Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida and Texas.

Staff discovered the unusual strain while investigating a single case of salmonella. As part of the investigation, staff from DPH and Boston Inspectional Services collected samples of various food products used as ingredients from a Boston restaurant and interviewed people who fell ill.

The samples were brought back to the State Public Health Laboratory for testing and one of the samples, an unopened package of raw frozen coconut meat, tested positive for salmonella. DPH shared the lab results with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ultimately led to the decision by the distributor to announce the recall of all lots of frozen shredded coconut sold between Jan. 3, 2017, and Jan. 3, 2018.

Salmonella can cause salmonellosis in the bowels in humans and animals. Although the disease is usually limited to the bowel and most infected people do not have serious medical complications, the salmonella bacteria can spread to other places in the body, which may cause serious complications in infants and people who are very old or are immunocompromised. The most common symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Symptoms most often begin 12 to 72 hours after the bacteria are ingested. Symptoms generally last for several days. Some people with salmonellosis become sick enough to require hospitalization.

Questions about the recall can be directed to DPH’s 24-hour Epidemiology Program hotline at (617) 983-6800.

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