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Regulators Tie Multi-State Cyclosporiasis Outbreak to Mexican Farm

Aug 5, 2013

Federal regulators have identified the source of the salad mix tied to the multi-state cyclospora food borne illness outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Taylor Farms’ Mexico unit has been identified as the salad mix supplier whose products have sickened about 400 people across the country, according to Law360. Taylor Farms is based in California and its Mexico-based division, Taylor Farms de Mexico S de RL de CV, supplied four restaurants in Iowa and Nebraska with the implicated pre-packaged salad mix. The mix has been named as a source of the multi-state cyclospora outbreak; the restaurants have not been named.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that 400 cases of cyclospora infection have been reported in 16 states, with Iowa reporting the most outbreaks (146 illnesses), followed by Texas (113) and Nebraska (81), according to Law360. “It is not yet clear whether the cases reported from other states are all part of the same outbreak,” the FDA indicated in a statement. “The investigation of increased cases of cyclosporiasis in other states continues.”

The FDA states that it is unlikely that the bagged produce was sold in grocery stores; Iowa and Nebraska officials stated that the bagged salads are no longer in their states’ food supply, according to Law360. The FDA indicated that it is stepping up its surveillance of Mexican-imported leafy green products.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (Democrat-Connecticut) and other food safety experts have criticized the FDA for delaying in naming the salad mix suppliers, especially after Iowa and Nebraska state officials announced that the source of the outbreak was linked to a salad mix, Law360 reported. In fact, Representative DeLauro sent the FDA a letter last week indicating his concern that the public was not made aware of the source of the outbreak. “This would be an alarming precedent and incredible disappointment to consumers, who expect a transparent federal food safety system that protects the public health,” she wrote.

The CDC’s investigation began one month prior to the FDA posting any information about the matter on its website, according to DeLauro, who asked the FDA and CDC to release an investigation timeline, Law360 wrote.

The pre-packaged salad mix is comprised of iceberg and romaine lettuce, as well as red cabbage and carrots, according to a recent CNN report. At least 15 states have reported illnesses, the LA Times reported.

People can remain sickened with cyclosporiasis—the illness caused by the rare cyclospora parasite—for about two months. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, appetite and weight loss, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and fatigue. Cyclosporiasis can also lead to vomiting and low-grade fever, according to the CDC; cyclosporiasis diarrhea could last nearly 60 days without treatment, which is generally administered in the form of a trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole antibiotic combination, CBS News explained.

Prior to 1996, cyclospora illnesses were infrequently reported in those who traveled to developing countries or who suffered from weakened immune systems, the Mayo Clinic has indicated. Although cyclosporiasis is more commonly seen in tropical and subtropical regions, since 1995, lettuce, fresh basil, and imported raspberries have been blamed for cyclosporiasis outbreaks nationwide. Cyclosporiasis infection occurs when food or water contaminated with the microscopic one-celled parasite is ingested, according to Reuters. Scrupulous washing does not always eliminate the parasite.

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