A wave of cyclospora cases swept across 17 American states, amassing to a minimum of 400 cases, since the outbreak commenced, approximated to be in late June. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed a sum total of 22 people have been hospitalized, across the United States of America, to date.
Cyclospora is caused by Cyclospora cayetanensis, a pathogen which causes rare cases of gastroenteritis (cyclosporiasis), and is endemic to a number of developing countries. Here comes the icky part. Once a sporulated oocyst (a single-celled unit, capable of giving rise to a new parasite) is ingested, along with contaminated food or drinking water, it forms a cyst and begins asexual reproduction in the intestinal tract. Eventually, with greater numbers, they begin sexual reproduction and, subsequently, induce impaired nutrient uptake, inflammation, and atrophy of intestinal structures (villi). The ensuing presentation of symptoms may include nausea, watery, explosive diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration and abdominal cramping.
Recent deductions seem to suggest potential relationship between the distribution of a salad mix and the spread of the parasitic pathogen, although these reports are yet to be definitively substantiated. In Iowa and Nebraska, Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants prepared the afore-said salad mix, produced by a Mexican subgroup, associated with the American food-service corporation, Taylor Farms of Salinas. FDA officials, seeking to clarifying the root cause, specified that the salad mix was served up with iceberg and romaine lettuce, in conjunction with carrots and red cabbage. Adding to the findings, an official FDA statement highlighted the results of their investigation, which “… found that illness clusters at four restaurants were traced to a common supplier, Taylor Farms de Mexico.”
However, the conclusion of these findings reflect research conducted into the states of Iowa and Nebraska, in isolation. The FDA ardently asserts that the details of these findings should not, in turn, be ascribed to other American states, as these cases are being looked at separately, during coexistent investigations.
Experts have declared cessation of the outbreak, as the last reported case transpired in Iowa (dated, July 1) and Nebraska (dated, July 2). The salad mix is unlikely to remain in food outlet and supermarket supply chains, as it has an expiry of just 14 days. This fact was quickly pointed out by regionally-affected health departments, including the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, who reassured the public that bagged salads and vegetables were now safe for human consumption, once more.
However, bestirred CDC spokeswoman, María-Belén Moran, has recently presented a conflicting message, creating much obfuscation for buyers, “It’s too early to say for sure whether it’s over, and thus too early to say there’s no risk of still getting sick.” However, Moran may be focusing on regions where a direct link to the cyclospora cases has not been inferred, in stark contrast to Iowa and Nebraska.
In a prepared statement, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services cogitated over their findings, suggesting “prepackaged, prewashed, salad mix” to be implicated as the suspected culprit. Unfortunately, however, neither Iowa nor Nebraska state health departments have confirmed where the bagged salads were commercially sold, or which precise brands they were. This has led many to excoriate investigators, and health department officials.
Waldrop (Consumer Federation of America) argues “Companies who are making people sick shouldn’t be kept anonymous… they should be held accountable. One way to do that is to provide the name of the company so that people know what company was responsible for making people sick; even if the number of illnesses is starting to decline.” A case could be put forward to support this position, as customers should be entitled to make an informed decision as to which salad-based products (if any) they continue to procure, based upon health and safety grounds. In addition, the absence of this information could put the reputation of certain salad providers, who have not been implicated in the cyclospora scare, at risk.
None-the-less the FDA continues to look into the matter, increasing the size of its investigation team at agency HQ, from seven to fifteen, whilst coordinating with teams across its field offices. Hopefully, we’ll soon know more.
Written By: James Fenner