MONDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The source of a widespread
stomach bug outbreak has been traced in at least two states to a
Mexican farm that supplied salad mix to Olive Garden and Red
Lobster restaurants, U.S. health officials report.
At least 400 cases of infection with the foodborne cyclospora
parasite have been reported so far in 16 states and New York City
since the outbreak began in June, according to the latest
statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
On Sunday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on
its website that illnesses in Nebraska and Iowa have now been
traced to Taylor Farms de Mexico, the Mexican branch of Taylor
Farms in Salinas, Calif. The FDA said that it was trying to
determine whether the prepackaged salad mix was the source of
infections in the other states.
"It is not yet clear whether the cases reported from other states are all part of the same outbreak," the agency said in a statement. "The investigation of increased cases of cyclosporiasis in other states continues."
Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which owns both the Olive
Garden and Red Lobster restaurant chains, said in a statement that
the FDA announcement was "new information," the
"Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we've received from this supplier," the Darden statement said.
Taylor Farms Chairman and CEO Bruce Taylor said in an email that
the plant involved produced 48 million servings of salads for
thousands of restaurants in the Midwest and eastern U.S. in June,
the month the outbreak started, the
APreported. He added that the plant has an extensive
"All our tests have been negative and we have no evidence of cyclospora in our product," Taylor said in the email. "We are working closely with the FDA to continue this investigation."
Taylor noted that Taylor Farms de Mexico does not supply Olive
Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in Texas, the state that has the
second highest number of illnesses in the outbreak.
According to the CDC, 113 of the illnesses reported so far were
in Texas. Iowa has had 146 illnesses and Nebraska has 81.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials said the overall investigation
In a posting on its website, the CDC said that it "will continue
to work with federal, state and local partners in the investigation
to determine whether this conclusion applies to the increase in
cases of cyclosporiasis in other states. It is not yet clear
whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same
Prior outbreaks of cyclospora infection have typically been
caused by tainted produce, the agency noted.
Although no one has died from cyclosporiasis, "at least 22
persons reportedly have been hospitalized in five states," the CDC
said. Most people got sick between mid-June through early July.
According to the CDC, cases have now been reported in Arkansas,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana,
Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas
One expert said that while cyclospora can make people very ill,
it is not usually life-threatening.
"On the infectious disease scale, this ranks well below the more notorious and dangerous ailments like E. coliand salmonella," said Dr. Lewis Marshall Jr., chairman of the outpatient services at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City.
"It is unlikely to be fatal, but certainly can make one's life miserable," he added. "Symptoms include crampy abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, bloating, nausea, fatigue, fever, headache and body aches."
Cases of cyclosporiasis are caused by a single-celled parasite
and cannot be spread from person to person; it has to be ingested
via contaminated water or foods such as fruit and vegetables,
according to Dr. Monica Parise, chief of the parasitic diseases
branch at the CDC.
"It can be pretty miserable, because it can give diarrhea that can last for days," Parise said.
It takes about a week for people who are infected to become
Marshall said there may be more cases of cyclospora infection
out there than people realize. It is possible "that most
occurrences go unreported, as many people wouldn't recognize the
symptoms as any different than a common stomach bug," he
Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, urged people who have suffered
from diarrhea for longer than a couple of days to be tested for
"If not treated, symptoms can last from a few days to a month or longer, go away and then return later," Marshall said. "Cyclospora can be treated with an antibiotic combination of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole [Bactrim]."
The best option, however, is to avoid the bug altogether.
"The safest way to protect oneself and one's family is to always rinse fresh produce under water, and even put vegetables in a cold water bath ahead of time to properly clean them," Marshall advised.
One expert stressed that the wash-your-produce rule includes
"Wash all your fruits and salads before ingesting," said Dr. Salvatore Pardo, vice chairman of the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "My hunch is the public does not do this to 'prepackaged' salad, which is normally purchased for convenience and dumped into the bowl since it tends to be free from particles -- dirt, sand, critters -- one would normally find in locally picked ingredients."
For more information on cyclospora, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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