For Immediate Release
Contact: Melissa Hartmann de Barros
Images Available August 8, 2017
Salmonella Outbreak Limited To One Papaya Grower
Fort Lauderdale, FL – In light of the recent Salmonella outbreak of July 2017, one of the largest papaya importers into the USA, HLB Specialties, is cautioning retailers and the media to make a clear distinction between the different papaya brands, growers, varieties, and countries of origin. The outbreak is limited to one specific grower in Mexico, Carica de Campeche, and the brands they distribute. Papayas of other growers, brands, varieties, and countries of origin have not been linked to the outbreak and are safe for consumption.
Papayas are grown in many countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, and USA (Hawaii). Maradol Papayas are the large kind, weighing approximately three pounds and usually have a fully yellow skin when ripe. Formosa papayas, also known as Tainung papayas, are also large and similar to Maradol in size and weight, but they are greener and ready to eat when only half yellow. The small Brazilian Golden Papaya variety weighs around one pound and is also very sweet.
The company hopes to educate consumers on the different types of papaya in order to keep the public informed about the source of the outbreak. Melissa Hartmann de Barros, Director of Communications at HLB Specialties, notes “The safety of the consumers is our highest priority. We share their concern and caution, but we also want to provide as much information as possible, so that shoppers can make an educated decision when buying papayas. Consumers can rest assured that the other large papaya variety Formosa as well as the small Brazilian Golden variety are not implicated and are safe for consumption.”
Food Safety is a very important part of HLB Specialties. The company follows all food safety guidelines put in place by FDA as well as third party certifying agencies that continuously monitor their growers’ work.
Salmonella is a bacteria found in raw foods that have been handled with poor hygiene. It is not a problem linked to a specific kind of food, but with incorrect handling, most likely in post-production with the use of unsanitary water or an unclean packing house.
In an effort to provide more information to the media and consumers, HLB has made several posts on their social media channels and contacted all major produce industry publications. To follow their posts, please see their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages by searching @hlbspecialties or clicking on the links.
HLB Specialties carries organic and conventional Formosa papayas, Brazilian Golden papayas, mangoes, avocados, limes, as well as other specialty items such as rambutan and goldenberries. For more information please visit www.HLBinfo.com follow @hlbspecialties on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or call 954-475-8808.
Pompano Beach, FL – In light of the recent Salmonella outbreak of July 2017, one of the largest papaya importers into the USA, HLB Specialties, is cautioning retailers and the media to make a clear distinction between the different papaya varieties, countries of origin, growers, and brands. The outbreak is limited to one specific papaya variety, Maradol, which is grown in Mexico. Papayas of other varieties and countries of origin have not been linked to the outbreak and are safe for consumption.
Papayas are grown in many countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, and the USA (Hawaii). Maradol Papayas are the large kind, weighing approximately three pounds and usually have a fully yellow skin when ripe. Tainung papayas are also large and similar to Maradol in size and weight, but they are greener and ready to eat when only half yellow. The small Brazilian Golden Papaya variety weighs around one pound and is also very sweet.
The company hopes to educate consumers on the different types of papaya in order to keep the public informed about the source of the outbreak. Melissa Hartmann de Barros, Director of Communications at HLB Specialties, notes “The safety of the consumers is our highest priority. We share their concern and caution, especially because people were sickened by the outbreak. But we also want to provide as much information as possible, so that shoppers can make an educated decision when buying papayas. Consumers can rest assured that the other large papaya variety Tainung as well as the small Brazilian Golden variety are not implicated and are safe for consumption.”
A multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections was linked to a single brand of Maradol papayas from Mexico, but other varieties and brands have not been implicated, according to a leading importer of the tropical fruit.
On July 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued an advisory not to eat yellow Maradol papayas due to the possibility of the presence of Salmonella Kiambu, which to date has afflicted 47 people in 12 states. Twelve people have been hospitalized and one person died in New York City as a result of the outbreak.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued its own advisory July 22 against consuming Caribeña brand papayas, which it identified as the source of the contamination. FDA said papaya samples taken by the Maryland Department of Health at a Baltimore retail location tested positive for the strains of Salmonella Kiambu and Salmonella Thompsonthat were found in people who had fallen ill.
States that have reported illnesses linked to the outbreak are Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The highest concentration of illnesses are New York (13), New Jersey (12), Virginia (6), Maryland (5) and Pennsylvania (4). Each of the other states has reported a single illness.
Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications at HLB Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL, a leading importer of papayas from Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico, said that while the health and safety of consumers is her company’s primary concern, she wants the industry to be clear that it is solely one brand of Maradol papayas from Mexico that have been identified as the source of the contamination.
“Two weeks ago, I visited our rambutan grower in Guatemala to see how this year’s crop is developing,” says Andres Ocampo with HLB Specialties. “It is still early in the season as the flowers from the rambutan trees are just starting to shift into actual fruits. However, these are the first signs of a healthy crop.”
Extending the season
Although harvest is two months away, HLB’s grower LaFinita is very optimistic about the upcoming season. Normally, the season starts around June 1st, but harvest might begin a little earlier this year. “Our grower has been trying to extend the season by planting in different regions,” said Ocampo. Because of different soils and climates, some trees flower a little earlier. The first region that comes into production is situated in the southern part of Guatemala, in the department of San Marcos. “If harvest in San Marcos would start mid-May, volumes won’t be significant until the beginning of June,” added Ocampo. Once harvest in the south has been finalized, it will shift to the Puerto Barrios region in the department of Izabal. Growing in two different regions has allowed LaFinita to extend its season through November.
The Place: HLB Specialties, run by the Barros family, is named for Brazilian founder Homero Levy de Barros. The company, based in Pompano Beach, has 26 years of experience in growing and importing papayas and serving top retailers and wholesalers in North America and Canada. They recently started importing organic Formosa papayas, grown sustainably in Mexico in a secluded area with a protected microclimate where the fruits can develop undisturbed year round. They are always in season and have the longest shelf life of all papayas.
The History: Papayas are a large leafy herb resembling trees, as they grow to more than 30 feet tall. The large elongated Formosa papaya is called Tainung in Taiwan, where the seeds come from. They were introduced to Taiwan from Brazil by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Taiwan was once a Portuguese colony called Formosa, which means “beautiful” in Portuguese. So Brazilian and other growers call the papaya Formosa, the name it also goes by in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Papayas originated in southern Mexico and neighboring Central America, but they grow in subtropical regions all over the world, including Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, the Caribbean, South Florida, Southern California and Hawaii.
Florida-based tropical fruit distributor HLB Specialties will continue to roll out new packaging and promotional options for rambutans as the category moves away from its “ethnic market” niche.
Speaking with www.freshfruitportal.com during the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Orlando this month, operations director Andres Ocampo said the company’s Guatemalan partner was increasing plantings to keep up with growing demand.
“We started about five years ago with rambutans from Guatemala – at the time we tried to bring a different perspective to the business which had traditionally been the Asian [community] market,” Ocampo said.
“We tried different ways of packaging the fruit so we started working with clamshells, and through the years we have been refining which clamshells are best for which market.”
“We started with one-pound clamshells, we tried clamshells with five fruits, and we recently decided to fine-tune what is the weight that allows us to get a price point that is still affordable for most consumers but gives enough fruit to make it worth it.”
This led to a 12oz pack with roughly 12 fruits inside which has been very successful, according to Ocampo.
The Place: Exotic lychee-like fruit rambutan, sheathed in a hairy red shell, is available at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Fresh Market imported from Guatemala and Honduras by HLB Specialties.
The History: HLB was founded by the Barros family, who emigrated from Brazil to Germany in 1989 to start a fruit-importing company bringing papayas to Europe. They moved to South Florida in 1998 to establish their company here and now also distribute mangoes, avocados, limes, physalis (golden berries) and rambutan flown in daily just after they are harvested. They focus on fruits from tropical regions in Colombia, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In the 19th century, the Dutch brought rambutan from their colony in Indonesia to their Surinam colony in South America, where it spread throughout the continent and to Central America. The fruit is in season May to January and available now.
“For the first time, we are sourcing rambutans out of Honduras this year,” says Andres Ocampo with HLB Specialties. “This allows us to extend our season by two months.” Until this year, HLB Specialties sourced its rambutans from Guatemala, a season that runs from May until November. “However, by popular demand, we have extended our pool of suppliers and purchase from Honduras between October and January, maybe into February.” Most customers prefer availability of the product for a longer time frame.
Shoppers on the East Coast and in the Midwest are discovering a new fruit that is currently being promoted throughout over 2,000 stores in 16 states. It is called rambutan and it’s not only tasty, but it also has a very unusual appearance that is especially eye-catching for kids and adults alike. It is being called the “new spooky fruit” for Halloween parties.
Rambutan is a tropical fruit, similar to lychee, and originally from Southeast Asia. It is round and about 1 ½ inches in diameter and has a large nutty seed in its core. The pulp is slightly translucent white, sweet and mildly acidic. Fresh rambutan has a bright red leathery exterior with soft red spikes, which can also be light green. The seed may be cooked and eaten. In Vietnam, where the fruit is extremely popular, it is nicknamed “messy hair” due to the pliable spines.
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