The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a report on its investigation of the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak in peaches. This has been the first time a Salmonella outbreak has been linked to peaches. FDA and multiple state and federal partners investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections that were linked to the consumption of peaches during summer 2020. In total, the outbreak causes 101 reported illnesses across 27 states, including 28 hospitalizations.
The FDA conducted this investigation between August and October 2020 in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state partners, and Canadian public health officials. The epidemiological and traceback investigation determined that peaches packed or supplied by a large grower/producer were the likely source of the outbreak. The traceback evidence informed and helped prioritize two subsequent investigations of peach packing/holding operations and peach orchards in Cutler, Kerman, and Sanger, California. The large grower/producer cooperated with FDA throughout the investigation and is continuing to engage with FDA on the agency’s findings and recommendations.
Investigators conducted over 700 tests on environmental, peach, and peach tree leaf samples. While no test results matched the 2020 outbreak strain, four tests conducted on peach and peach tree leaf samples collected from an orchard adjacent to a poultry operation yielded positives for Salmonella Alachua, which were further linked via whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to 2019 and 2020 chicken isolates. This finding prompted a follow-up investigation more closely focused on growing areas and a voluntary recall by the firm, preventing the tested, contaminated product from reaching the market. During the follow-up investigation, two tests of peach tree leaf samples collected from orchards adjacent to a cattle feedlot yielded positives for Salmonella Montevideo that were genetically similar via WGS to 2018–2020 beef and cattle isolates.
While investigators did not find the outbreak strain, and the strains of Salmonella found during this outbreak were not linked to any clinical illnesses, the investigational findings reinforce FDA’s concern about the potential impact that adjacent land uses can have on the safety of produce.
FDA views the implementation of appropriate science- and risk-based measures to reduce the potential for contamination of peaches and other produce as the most effective and practicable means to improve the safety of fresh produce, especially when measures are tailored to the specific practices and conditions on individual farms. FDA encourages all growers to be cognizant of and assess risks that may be posed by adjacent and nearby land uses, including for the potential impact of dust exposure. FDA also recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment when it comes to public health outcomes and encourages collaboration among various groups in the broader agricultural community (e.g., produce growers, those managing animal operations, state and federal government agencies, and academia) to address this issue.