Source of Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Has Been the Subject of Multiple Outbreaks

cyclospriosis_outbreak_originsTaylor Farms, the vegetable producer under investigation for a salad mix tied to hundreds of illnesses in a 22-state food poisoning outbreak has also implemented a number of recalls over potentially tainted products.

Just this year, Taylor Farms has implemented three recalls following a probe of salad greens used at restaurants and restaurant chains such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Three other recalls were implemented in 2012 and another three in 2011, noted The New York Times.

Bruce Taylor, the chief executive of Taylor Farms, said that it is the size of the company that led to the recalls, noting that Taylor Farms sells as much salad its three largest competitors combined. “Just if you do the sheer math, our recalls relative to our size are fewer than anybody else,” Taylor told the Times. Experts disagree, saying the outbreak was high even for a food producer of that size.

People can remain ill with cyclosporiasis, which is caused by the rare cyclospora parasite, for about two months. The food borne illness causes symptoms such as watery diarrhea, appetite and weight loss, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and fatigue. The disease can also lead to vomiting and low-grade fever in some cases, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CBS News points out that the diarrhea could last nearly 60 days without treatment, which is typically the combination antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.

Prior to 1996, cyclospora illnesses were only reported in people who traveled to developing countries or who suffered from weakened immune systems, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even then, the cases were infrequent. Since 1995, lettuce, fresh basil, and imported raspberries have been blamed in North American cyclosporiasis outbreaks, the Mayo Clinic reports, noting that scrupulous washing cannot always eliminate the parasite.

Cyclosporiasis is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with a microscopic one-celled parasite, according to Reuters, and is more commonly seen in the world’s tropical and subtropical regions.

About 600 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported since June of this year. While not all of the cases have been tied to Taylor Farms products, this is the largest outbreak associated with the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis since 1997, according to the Times.

Taylor Farms just resumed operations at the Mexican processing facilities that were the source of the Cyclospora-contaminated greens. The FDA found that safety protocols were met at its recent inspection, the Times reported.

The CDC, which is collaborating with the FDA, pointed out that while the Nebraska and Iowa outbreaks were linked to Taylor Farms produce in Mexico, according to investigators, an initial analysis of cases in Texas did not connect those outbreaks to Taylor Farms, according to the Times. “Although the investigation of cases in 2013 is ongoing, available evidence suggests that not all of the cases of cyclosporiasis in the various states are directly related to each other,” the CDC said, according to the Times.

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