Last week, the USDA and CDC identified an outbreak of cyclospora infections across 14 states that fast food giant, McDonald’s, is potentially linked to. The Illinois and Iowa Health Departments identified McDonald’s salads as a potential source for the outbreak. McDonald’s has voluntarily stopped selling their salads across all 14 affected states.
According to the CDC, 61 people have been infected with cyclospora, a parasite that causes diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, bloating and intestinal gas. Two people have been hospitalized but there have been no fatalities associated with the outbreak. The cases are spread across seven states but McDonald’s identified a total of 14 states that had access to the potentially contaminated salad. This is why the restaurant has stopped selling their salads in all 3,000 stores in the 14 states, which include Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri.
“We understand how important it is to quickly identify the cause of this foodborne outbreak to help reduce additional illness and we’re working closely with our colleagues at CDC and state partners to get more answers. There’s still a lot to learn about this outbreak, and we appreciate that McDonald’s has removed salads from the menu in impacted restaurants while we work to determine whether they are in fact linked to the outbreak. We will continue to share our progress toward these goals and provide updates as we learn more,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
The FDA is currently working alongside McDonald’s to identify which ingredients in their salad are directly associated with the contamination. Once identified, the FDA plans on tracing the ingredients through the supply chain.
“McDonald’s has been in contact with public health authorities from Iowa and Illinois about an increase in cyclospora infections in those states. In addition, the CDC also has received reports from people who became sick in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin who ate salads sold at McDonald’s locations in those states. Out of an abundance of caution, we voluntarily stopped selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier,” said McDonald’s in a public statement regarding this issue.
Cyclospora infections have also been linked to Del Monte Vegetable Trays, which the FDA is also currently investigating. However, the regulatory body said that they have no evidence to connect the McDonald’s outbreak to Del Monte’s. The FDA has not yet identified what ingredients in Del Monte’s vegetable trays are contaminated. There is also an ongoing Cyclospora outbreak in Texas which has infected 56 people.
All of these outbreaks indicate that this parasite is coming from multiple ingredient sources. However, due to the fact that these outbreaks are occurring at the same time, there is a pattern that needs to be identified. The parasite can easily be killed by cooking foods which is why this contamination is primarily associated with fruits and vegetables, which can be eaten raw.
According to the CDC, cyclospora is a single-celled parasite that can be found in feces and people can prevent being infected by the parasite by avoiding foods that have been exposed to feces. However, the question stills stands as to how the contaminated produce could have been exposed to fecal matter.