FDA: 2,173 Cases of Foodborne Cyclospora Reported So Far This Year

FDA: 2,173 Cases of Foodborne Cyclospora Reported So Far This Year

The well-publicized McDonald’s salad recall was just the tip of the iceberg for this year’s Cyclospora outbreak, according to a Tuesday (Sept. 18, 2018) report by the Food & Drug Administration.

The safety of the American food supply is one of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s highest priorities. So the FDA has increased its surveillance sampling efforts.

“We’ve also advanced new technology for pursuing these efforts and expanded the list of foodborne pathogens that the FDA monitors,” the FDA said Tuesday.

More Than 2,000 Cases

This year has been notable for the number of cyclosporiasis cases reported by state and local health departments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that 2,173 cases of domestically acquired cyclosporiasis have been recorded this spring and summer as of Sept. 12.

Many of this year’s illnesses with Cyclospora are linked to two very large produce-associated outbreaks that we announced over the last several months. A spring outbreak resulted in 250 illnesses in four states and was linked to Del Monte vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots that were sold mostly in convenience stores in the Upper Midwest.

Del Monte issued a voluntarily recall the vegetable trays to limit the extent of illness and on Sept. 6, the FDA and CDC declared this outbreak over.

The second outbreak occurred this summer when 511 Cyclospora illnesses were reported by 16 states. Most of these illnesses occurred in the Midwest. This outbreak was linked to McDonald’s salads sold in 14 states in the Midwest that contained a romaine lettuce and carrot mix supplied by Fresh Express.

The FDA worked with McDonald’s to quickly remove implicated salad from the stores. Testing conducted by the FDA identified the parasite in an unopened package of the bagged salad mix, supporting epidemiologic evidence that the salad mix is the source of the outbreak.

Fresh Express took the additional precautionary step of recalling lots of romaine lettuce outside the positive lot contained in the salad mix. On Sept. 12, the FDA and CDC announced that this outbreak had ended.

More Than Just 2 Outbreaks

Although these two outbreaks are large, together they account for less than half of all domestically acquired Cyclospora cases reported to CDC in 2018, the FDA said.

Smaller clusters of illness have been identified and investigations to date have found them to be epidemiologically linked to consumption of basil and cilantro in Mexican-style restaurants. These clusters are similar to clusters of Cyclospora seen in previous years that were traced to imported herbs although the investigation into the source of the current illnesses is ongoing.

The discovery of Cyclospora in both domestic and imported produce raise both old and new concerns. They underscore the importance of the FDA’s surveillance activities to better define risks, like investigating why different product types like vegetable trays are being linked to Cyclospora outbreaks, and how widespread Cyclospora may be in the U.S.

“They also stress the need to broaden the tools, like import alerts, that we have up to this point used to prevent Cyclospora illnesses in the U.S. to also include actions that are more appropriate for addressing domestic contamination events,” the FDA said.

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

A key part of the FDA’s work focuses on implementing the principles and measures of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The actions directed by FSMA are designed to prevent foodborne illness and food safety problems from happening.

Owing to these efforts, including a new FDA laboratory testing method, the FDA recently has been able to add screening for Cyclospora — a parasite that causes intestinal infection after people ingest something, such as fresh or uncooked produce, or water that was contaminated with human waste — to the list of foodborne pathogens that it can routinely test for in appropriate commodities.

The findings also highlight the significance of continuing to implement the provisions of the Produce Safety Rule at home and abroad.

“We must continue to put in place science-based measures to prevent microbial contamination from occurring, and work with our state and foreign partners to implement the Produce Safety Rule. We’ve been working closely with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and our state partners to, among other things, train federal and state regulators who will conduct inspections slated to begin next spring, develop inventories of farms that are covered by the rule, put in place the Produce Safety Network to support the states and their farming communities regionally, conduct On Farm Readiness Reviews to help farmers assess their preparedness to implement the Produce Safety Rule, and continue training opportunities for the farming community. All of these efforts are part of our commitment to working every day to assure the American public of the safety of the foods you and your family purchase and consume.

Got Questions?

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to Submit An Inquirydisclaimer icon to the agency, or to visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional information.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.

The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

SOURCE: FDA news release

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