Taylor Farms Halts Salad Mix Deliveries Due To Cyclospora Outbreak
August 13, 2013

Taylor Farms Halts Salad Mix Deliveries Due To Cyclospora Outbreak

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

As the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue their investigation into the Cyclospora outbreak so far affecting more than 500 people in 18 states, the Mexican farm linked to the outbreak in at least two states has reported it has ceased production and shipment of salad mixes to American grocery and restaurant chains.

Taylor Farms de Mexico, the company behind the latest outbreak – so far only confirmed in Iowa and Nebraska – informed the FDA on August 12 it had voluntarily suspended production and shipment of produce to the US on August 9, 2013. The firm noted it is committed to returning to full production and shipping from its facilities in Mexico without FDA approval when it deems its product is safe. For now, the voluntary action does extend beyond just salad mix and includes iceberg, romaine and green leaf lettuces, red and green cabbage, and carrots.

Taylor Farms has been cooperating with all FDA requests during this investigation. As well, the Mexican government’s food regulatory authorities -- the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) and the National Agro-Alimentary Health, Safety and Quality Service (SENASICA) – have been collaborating with the FDA’s investigation of the Cyclospora outbreak.

The FDA and Taylor Farms will conduct environmental assessments of the company’s processing facility in Mexico to pinpoint the origin of the outbreak and identify preventive controls that will prevent a recurrence of contamination. A 2011 FDA inspection of the facility found the plant was in accordance with US food production rules and regulations. The latest outbreak is now forcing the FDA to take a stricter stance on surveillance efforts on green leafy products exported to the US from Mexico.

Health departments in Iowa and Nebraska have announced they believe the contaminated salad mix is now out of the food supply in those states, as the last date of cyclosporiasis illness reported was on July 1 in Iowa and July 2 in Nebraska. Since the typical shelf life for salad mix is 14 days, it is unlikely any more infections will arise in those states.

While the FDA confirmed on August 3 that salad mix was responsible for illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska (based on a traceback investigation), it has not yet linked illness in 16 other states and NYC to Taylor Farms and/or any salad mix. The agency is continuing to follow several leads in those regions. The FDA’s investigation has only implicated salad mixes sold to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in the Iowa and Nebraska cases, and not consumer packages sold in grocery chains.

The agency has dedicated a 21-person team to try and solve this outbreak, including 10 field offices around the country also working to solve the case. It said it would augment investigation teams if necessary.

The CDC on August 12 reported 18 state health departments and NYC have notified the center of more than 535 cases of infection from Cyclospora. These departments include: Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New York City, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The CDC maintains it is not yet clear if all reported cases are part of the same outbreak.

According to CDC data, reports of Cyclospora infection started on June 1, 2013; the last report came on July 28, 2013. Most of the illnesses were reported over a one-week period from June 17 to June 24, with 183 reports of infection. Another 105 cases were reported from June 28 through July 6. At least 32 people in five states have been hospitalized due to the infection.

Of all reported cases, the bulk has come from Texas, which has now seen 215 cases of cyclosporiasis. Iowa and Nebraska have seen the next most cases, with 153 and 86, respectively. Florida has had 27 cases and Wisconsin has had 10. All other states implicated in the Cylcospora outbreak have seen five or fewer cases, with the exception of Illinois, which has seen nine cases.

This outbreak comes from the single-celled parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, which causes an intestinal infection known as cyclosporiasis. The infection occurs when people consume food or drink that is contaminated with the bug. Cyclospora needs days or weeks after being passed through bowel movement before it can become infectious to another person. Because of this, it is highly unlikely for the parasite to be transmitted from one person to another.

Cyclospora can affect anyone, but people who live in or travel to regions where cyclosporiasis is endemic – mainly tropical and subtropical areas – are at the highest level of risk of becoming sickened by the parasite. It takes generally one week before the infection produces symptoms. Once it infects the small intestine it can cause watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach pains, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue. Flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, body aches and fever may also be noted. While anyone can be infected, not everyone shows symtpoms. Without treatment, the illness can last anywhere from a few days to a month or longer. Often, symptoms can go away and return during infection.

Health experts maintain the safest way to prevent an infection is to always wash hands, utensils, and food surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Also, all fresh produce should be thoroughly washed before it is eaten.

The FDA and CDC will update information as it becomes available. Health officials urge anyone who may have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days to seek medical attention as soon as possible. People with questions about food safety can call 1-888-SEAFOOD or visit fda.gov.