The California Department of Public Health has issued a warning to residents about edible cactus products imported from Mexico, which may contain a banned pesticide that can cause illness and possibly permanent nerve damage.
During routine testing, imported nopales – spiny cactus pads – were found to contain up to 5.8 parts per million (ppm) of Monocrotophos, a banned organophosphate-based pesticide, CBS News Los Angeles reports. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning can include sweating, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, excess saliva production, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Monocrotophos consumption can result in neurotoxicity and permanent nerve damage.
Nopales, a traditional food in parts of Mexico, are usually boiled or pickled, and are peeled and served without needles. Though washing, peeling, and boiling can remove some of the pesticide, health officials advise consumers not to try to salvage the product. Consumers should return nopales to the place of purchase or dispose of it, CBS News says.
Monocrotophos is the suspected toxin in a poisoning episode in India in July that sickened dozens of schoolchildren and killed 23. This chemical has been banned in the U.S. since 1989 and is also banned in Australia, Cambodia, China, the European Union, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, CBS News reports. Organophosphates are a component in chemical weapons.
Consumers may be able to identify the affected cactus by a supplier sticker marked “Comercializadora De Chiles, Selectos Nieto S. De R.L. De C.V.,” but products in retail stores and bulk bins may not be labeled, according to CBS News. These are some of the cactus suppliers and dates:
- La Superior SuperMercados in Sacramento, Stockton, Woodland and Pittsburg between 2/6/2014 and 2/12/2014
- Mercado del Valle in Concord between 2/6/2014 and 2/12/2014
- La Sucursal Produce on Central Avenue in Los Angeles on 2/6/2014
- Fresh American Produce on Mission Road in Los Angeles on 2/7/2014
- J&L Produce on Central Avenue in Los Angeles on 2/6/2014