This summer a stomach bug was re-born ‘Cyclospora’. Cyclospora is a single-celled microscopic parasite featuring weeks and sometimes even months of severe intestinal illness, loss of appetite, cramps, nausea and fatigue. In most cases, it takes almost a week for symptoms to appear, however there is some good news, cyclospora is not contagious and is treatable with antibiotics.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the cyclospora outbreak hit the United States in early June and as of today, has affected over 418 people across 16 states including: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York City, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Typically, cyclospora is found only in tropical regions, such as Latin America and is usually,a result of contaminated water or produce. However, in the United States, an outbreak of this nature is rare and is often contracted abroad or from imported food. A cyclospora outbreak has not occurred in the United States since 1996 and at the time it was ruled that fresh raspberries imported from Guatemala was the culprit. Over 1000 people were sickened across twenty states.
Frustrations are continuing to mount from both the public and the media, as investigators have yet to determine an exact culprit. However, sources from health departments in Iowa and Nebraska are indicating that the outbreak may have from a now-expired, prepackaged salad mi that came through national distribution channels. In Iowa alone, over 147 people have contracted cyclospora and in 80 percent of those cases, people had been exposed to the same prepackaged salad mix. The salad mix in question contains iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage. The name of the brand(s) potentially responsible for the outbreak, have yet to be named, as the investigation is still underway. Even if the source is determined, Iowa has a state law that prevents investigators from naming the brand(s) or companies associated with the outbreak, as they are protected by law unless there is a public health concern.
Ironically, last week the FDA just proposed two new rules that will make it harder for sub-par imported foods to make it to the U.S. market. Importers would be required to vouch that their overseas suppliers are using modern, practices that ensure “the same level of food safety as domestic growers and processors.” In addition, they would also need to indicate specific safety hazards that are likely to occur with each food and provide assurances that these problems are being monitored.
For professionals in the food safety industry and customers alike, the CDC recommends that all fresh produce be washed prior to consumption and to practice safe handling during food preparations by washing hands and all utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.
Learn2Serve is a leading provider of online food safety and food manager compliance solutions. As a restaurant or a company in the food service industry, all employees should have proper knowledge of food handling practices in order to help prevent food-borne illnesses.