Peaches recalled nationwide after 111 sickened, 26 hospitalized across North America

If you bought peaches at any of the country’s largest supermarkets this summer—including Target, Walmart, and Kroger—you should probably toss ‘em.

Update, August 28, 3:40 p.m.: Ten more people have been sickened by the salmonella outbreak linked to Prima Wawona peaches, bringing total illnesses to 111 and hospitalizations to 26.

Federal agencies on Monday expanded a nationwide recall of peaches linked to the country’s largest stone fruit company, Prima Wawona, due to potential contamination with Salmonella Enteritidis. The recall, first announced last week, was originally limited to bagged fruit, and has now been extended to individual and loose peaches as well. Both yellow and white, conventional and organic peaches are affected. A full list of recalled products, including specific produce codes, can be found here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 68 individuals have become sickened by the outbreak strain, Salmonella Enteritidis, and 14 have been hospitalized across nine states. In Canada, U.S.-imported peaches have sickened an additional 33 people in two provinces.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging eaters to toss any of the specified fruit purchased from some of the country’s largest grocery chains—such as Aldi, Walmart, Kroger, and Target—between June and August, including peaches you might have in your freezer. It’s also encouraging both restaurants and suppliers to throw potentially contaminated fruit away.

“Salmonella is really sturdy, meaning it’s very good at surviving on plants like fruit and produce.”

Salmonella is a foodborne illness that can cause gastrointestinal issues, ranging from stomach aches to bloody feces. While most infections resolve themselves without treatment within hours or a few days, many eaters—including children, elderly people, and those who may have compromised immune systems—face a heightened risk for serious complications.

There are numerous points along any supply chain where fruits and vegetables can be infected with illness-causing bacteria. This can happen anywhere from farm fields, where animal feces can spread disease to produce; to processing plants that fail to properly sanitize equipment; to one’s own home, where raw meat or eggs can cross-contaminate with other groceries, said Mary Anne Amalaradjou, an associate professor of food microbiology at the University of Connecticut.

[Subscribe to our 2x-weekly newsletter and never miss a story.]

“All of these factors can play a role in how salmonella can get into food and how it gets into us,” she said. In the past, Amalardjou has studied this particular outbreak strain and its ability to survive in mangos, finding that Salmonella Enteritidis can stay alive inside fruit for multiple days, and can remain on surfaces even after washing.

“Salmonella is really sturdy, meaning it’s very good at surviving on plants like fruit and produce,” she said.

In addition to our peach problem, an outbreak of Salmonella Newport linked to red onions has sickened over 500 people in the U.S. and Canada, and a Cyclospora outbreak linked to bagged salads sickened nearly 700.

For this particular outbreak, FDA and CDC have reportedly traced multiple infections back to Prima Wawona, the nation’s biggest stone fruit supplier.

“We’re conducting this voluntary recall in cooperation with the FDA out of consideration for the wellbeing and safety of our customers and consumers,” said George Nikolich, Prima Wawona’s vice president of technical operations in a press release. “We continue to be committed to serving consumers with high quality fruit.”

This isn’t the first time the company has been linked to foodborne illness. In the summer of 2014, it had to recall peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots due to potential listeria contamination, food safety lawyer Bill Marler noted for Food Poisoning Journal.

You couldn’t be blamed for feeling like 2020 has been banner summer for foodborne illnesses: In addition to our peach problem, an outbreak of Salmonella Newport linked to red onions has sickened over 500 people in the U.S. and Canada, and a Cyclospora outbreak linked to bagged salads sickened nearly 700.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness occur every year, and advancements in detection technology help officials pinpoint and trace pathogens along the supply chain with increasing efficiency.

Nonetheless, Amalardjou said, there’s no reason to feel too alarmed quite yet: Outbreaks of foodborne illness occur every year, and advancements in detection technology help officials pinpoint and trace pathogens along the supply chain with increasing efficiency.

With peach season in full swing in numerous growing regions, you can likely rest assured that stone fruit produced by other companies or sold at a nearby farmers’ market is still safe to enjoy.

“I’ll still have my peaches,” Amalaradjou said. “I love my peaches.” Safe peaching is just a matter of keeping an eye on FDA’s recall list, and steering clear of any fruit that gets flagged.

We will continue to update this story as it evolves.

Jessica Fu is a staff writer for The Counter. She previously worked for The Stranger, Seattle's alt-weekly newspaper. Her reporting has won awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Newswomen’s Club of New York.