Cyclospora Outbreak Update: Taylor Farms de Mexico Salad Production Stopped

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Cyclospora is a parasite that causes intestinal disease in people who come into contact with contaminated food or water. Image by the CDC.

Cyclospora is a parasite that causes intestinal disease in people who come into contact with contaminated food or water. Image by the CDC.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of August 12, 2013 there have been 539 cases of cyclosporiasis in 19 states including, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (including New York City), Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

So far 32 people have been hospitalized, but no one has died. It is unclear whether or not all the outbreaks are coming from the same source, but one source, Taylor Farms de Mexico, has been linked to cyclospora outbreaks in two states.

Taylor Farms de Mexico

Taylor Farms de Mexico notified the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it has stopped all productions and shipment of all their salad mixes.

Taylor Farms de Mexico salad was linked to outbreaks in two states, Iowa and Nebraska, via salad served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster. The salad contained iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, carrots, and cabbage. Closing Taylor Farms de Mexico allows the company to fully participate with the FDA in attempts to figure out where the cyclospora parasite came from in their plant.

Cyclospora Outbreaks of the Past

Many times you can learn from the past, so looking back at other cyclospora outbreaks may provide some clues as to where this parasite is coming from. In 1996 there was a large outbreak of cyclospora in the United States. In the study entitled, “An Outbreak in 1996 of Cyclosporiasis Associated with Imported Raspberries”  published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers investigated the outbreak and tried to determine where the parasite came from. In 1996 there were 1465 cases reported among 20 states, the District of Columbia, and two provinces. Researchers discovered that raspberries from Guatemala were served at least 50 of the 55 events from May 3 through June 14th.

Raspberries were linked to a previous cyclospora outbreak in 1997. Image by Wookipedia

Raspberries were linked to a previous cyclospora outbreak in 1997. Image courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture

Researchers concluded that persistent contamination is the most likely explanation for the cyclosporiasis outbreak, due the distribution of the raspberries.

In another outbreak during June and July 2004 residents in a residential facility in Pennsylvania became sick with cyclosporiasis. There were 40 laboratory-confirmed cases and 56 probable cases, according to the CDC. This outbreak was from contaminated snow peas in a pasta salad that was served at special events. The snow peas were also traced back to Guatemala.

Food-Borne Disease

Taylor Farms de Mexico is doing the right thing by closing the plant until the source of the parasite is found. However, that doesn’t mean you should be a passive consumer. Eating fresh produce is great for your health, but always wash your produce thoroughly; it might not eliminate all potential parasite or viruses, but it can help reduce their numbers.

Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreak of Cyclosporsis Associated with Snow Peas – Pennsylvania 2004. September 17, 2004. Accessed August 14, 2013.

Herwaldt, B. and Ackers, M. An Outbreak in 1996 of Cyclosporiasis Associated with Imported Raspberries. New England Journal of Medicine. May 29, 1997. Accessed August 14, 2013.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis. August 12, 20313. Accessed August 14, 2013.

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