Update: On August 11 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a total of 141 people across 19 states had been affected by the outbreak.
The U.S. may be in the midst of a deadly multistate salmonella outbreak linked to papayas, but one Texas-headquartered grower-shipper has reported that overall demand for the tropical fruit has been unfettered.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the outbreak that has left one person dead in New York state and sickened more than 100 others is linked to Maradol papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico.
Three brands – Caribeña, Cavi and Valery – have so far been recalled.
Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, a representative of a company that is not connected to the health scare said it had not been particularly affected by the situation.
“Even though we are not involved with this outbreak, there are some retailers who canceled their orders just as a precaution, and besides that we are okay,” Super Starr International quality control manager Mert Gumus said.
“The prices are still high and demand is strong.”
He said Whole Foods Market and Kroger had stopped buying papayas from all sources, adding he believed that was also the case with Wal-Mart.
“They just wanted to be on the safe side, so they stopped buying any kind of papayas,” he said, but highlighted only around 10% of the company’s sales had been affected.
Gumus also explained Super Starr only distributed papayas grown from its own farms in Mexico, and it could therefore be confident all food safety standards were being met along the chain.
“We follow the rules,” he said.
The majority of the company’s papaya sales correspond to its exclusive proprietary variety, named Super Starr, but it also sells Maradols.
He said it was possible the salmonella outbreak could affect the papaya category as a whole in the longer-term, but said the company could only focus on its own produce.
“We are doing our part. Food safety is our primary concern at our company here in Texas and down in Mexico. We work hard, as do other companies,” he said.
The U.S. market has generally been quite weak for most of this year, with high supply volumes and low demand that resulted in low prices, according to Gumus.
But he said that over the last couple of weeks the market had turned around.
“Over the last 15 days supply has been very tight from Mexico and Central America, and the market is strong,” he said.