Federal health authorities said an outbreak of Cyclospora parasite linked to McDonald’s restaurants in the Midwest has sickened about 400 people in 15 states.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update said that U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials traced the Cyclospora to Fresh Express salad mix with romaine lettuce and carrots. Fresh Express supplied the salad mix to McDonald’s.
When people throughout the Midwest started getting sick last month, public health officials discovered that the majority of them had eaten salads from McDonald’s. That finding prompted McDonald’s to stop selling salads at about 4,000 of its restaurants, mostly in the Midwest.
Illinois, where McDonald’s is headquartered, reported the most cases of Cyclospora illnesses: 202. Iowa had the second-highest number with 87, and Missouri the third with 47 cases. Sixteen of those sickened were hospitalized.
The 395 cases linked to the contaminated produce are just the cases that have been confirmed by hospitals, doctors, and public health officials. It’s likely many more consumers were affected but did not seek medical treatment.
The FDA said an analysis of an unused package of Fresh Express salad mix with romaine and carrots detected the presence of Cyclospora, a parasite that is spread through fecal matter.
Fresh Express said that the carrots in the mix went to McDonald’s restaurant locations only and that the romaine lettuce was the only ingredient in the mix that was distributed to other locations. Romaine lettuce from the same lot that was positive for Cyclospora was distributed in pre-made salads and wraps distributed by Caito Foods of Indianapolis, Indiana.
None of the romaine lettuce from the contaminated lot was packaged for direct retail sale to consumers, the company said.
However, other Cyclospora problems have emerged in recent weeks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert on various salads and wraps containing contaminated romaine lettuce. Stores that sold products containing the affected chopped lettuce were Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Walgreens.
Cyclospora is a gastrointestinal parasite that causes a multitude of symptoms, the most common of which is diarrhea and dehydration, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps and pain. Bloating, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, body aches, headache, and fever are also common symptoms.
McDonald’s reported that it has sourced lettuce from another supplier and its salads and other products containing lettuce are completely restocked.