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Tahini Consumption Associated With Salmonella Concord Outbreak

MAY 21, 2019 | MICHAELA FLEMING
Tahini is in the news once again as health officials have declared a multistate Salmonella Concord outbreak linked with the product. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this outbreak is not connected with the Salmonella outbreak resolved in February that was linked with tahini and sickened 8 individuals across 4 states.

As of May 14, 2019, 4 cases of Salmonella Concord have been reported across 3 states in the current outbreak. All 4 individuals fell ill during the month of March, with onset of illness dates ranging from March 9 to March 23. The ill range in age from 8 to 32 years, with a median age of 21 years. The outbreak notice reports that 75% of the ill are female and that 1 hospitalization has occurred in relation to the outbreak.

As part of the epidemiologic investigation, health officials conducted interviews with 3 of the ill individuals. All 3 reported eating tahini or hummus made with tahini in the week prior to becoming sick. State health officials in New York conducted a traceback investigation and interviewed restaurants where ill individuals ate and obtained samples of the products.

According to records, the restaurants all used Karawan brand tahini. Health officials were able to isolate the outbreak strain from both opened and sealed containers of the tahini at 1 of the restaurants where an ill individual ate.

The CDC performed whole-genome sequencing on both isolates from the ill and isolates collected from the Karawan brand tahini. Results indicate that the isolates from the product and the people were closely genetically related, providing more evidence that Karawan brand tahini is likely the source of the outbreak.

On May 14, 2019, Brodt Zenatti Holdings, LLC, the parent company of Karawan brand tahini, agreed to initiate a product recall. The voluntary recall was initiated the following day, including retail and bulk Karawan brand tahini sold in 16-ounce jars and 39-pound buckets that were imported from Palestine between December 2018 and January 2019.

On May 17, the recall was expanded to include all tahini products, including those imported prior to December of 2018 and through April 2019.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause symptoms that include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours. The illness usually persists for 4 to 7 days and most individuals recover without treatment. Young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to complications, which can lead to hospitalization.

Due to the length of the Salmonella reporting timeline, illnesses related to this outbreak may not be reported yet.

Health care providers who are living in areas affected by the outbreak should be cognizant of these symptoms and consider Salmonella as a potential diagnosis if a patient presents with them.

This is an ongoing investigation and updates will be provided as more information become available.

For the most recent case counts and a list of affected states in the Salmonella Concord outbreak linked to Karawan brand tahini, check out the Outbreak Monitor.
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