Is a lime wedge in Arkansas key to solving the mystery Salmonella outbreak? It may be.
In Springdale, Arkansas, Juniper Spann, age 20 months, sampled a lime wedge and was hospitalized days later with sepsis from a severe Salmonella infection, her mother Dana Spann told 5Newsonline. Juniper is hospitalized at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
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Arkansas is one of the 35 states currently included in a mystery Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 419 people, hospitalizing 66 of them. Eight people in Arkansas were part of this outbreak as of September 30, the last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its information on the outbreak.
During interviews with state and federal health officials, many of the people sickened have mentioned eating foods served at Mexican-style restaurants containing cilantro, lime, peppers, and onions. All of those ingredients, except limes, have been linked to previous outbreaks.
Limes have likely taken the back seat on the suspect list for this outbreak because citrus juice is known to inhibit the growth of bacteria especially with a citrus concentration of at least 10 percent. But just because they haven’t been identified as the source of previous food poisoning outbreaks doesn’t mean limes can’t be contaminated with bacteria. In fact, a 2019 study found that Salmonella can survive on lime flesh and cross-contaminate beverages when used as a garnish.
The study, published in the Journal of Food Protection called “Survival of Salmonella on Lemon and Lime Slices and Subsequent Transfer to Beverage,” found Salmonella survived better on lime flesh than lemon flesh. And that the Salmonella on lime wedges survived regardless of whether they were stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
On September 24, 2021, the CDC reported that it had collected and tested a condiment cup from a takeout meal eaten by one of the outbreak patients. The sample tested positive for the outbreak strain Salmonella Oranienburg. The cup originally contained onions, cilantro, and lime, but at the time it was tested no onions were left in the cup. The CDC states that because foods contaminated with bacteria can cross-contaminate other foods they touch any of these three ingredients could be the source of the outbreak.
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If you or a loved one developed a Salmonella infection and would like a free consultation with an experienced Salmonella lawyer, please contact us. The Pritzker Hageman Salmonella Legal Team has represented clients in every major Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. There is no obligation and we don’t get paid unless we win.