The outbreak of a diarrhea-inducing parasite that has sickened at least 400 people in 16 states has been traced to prepackaged salad mix served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said. The salad mix was produced by the Mexican subsidiary of Taylor Farms, an American food service company, and sold to the restaurants in various states. The salad mix contained iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage.
FDA investigators are working with the company to conduct an environmental assessment of the processing facility in Mexico to determine the cause of the parasite.
The parasite, cyclospora, can contaminate produce usually through irrigation. Those infected can experience flu-like systems such as diarrhea, nausea, dehydration, fatigue and weight loss. Symptoms usually appear about a week after exposure. If left untreated, symptoms can last for weeks or months. Some hospitalizations have been reported, however no deaths have been associated with this outbreak.
States that have reported illnesses include Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, New York City, Wisconsin, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.
Cyclospora cannot be spread through person-to-person contact, only by eating infected food. Consumers are encouraged to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating and to wash their hands after handling produce to help protect them from getting ill.
Source: USA Today