UPDATE: FDA names Taylor Farms as source in parasite outbreak in Neb., Iowa

UPDATED Thursday, August 2, 2013 --- 4:35 p.m.

From nbcnews.com:

Taylor Farms of Mexico, a division of a California-based produce supplier whose greens go to national restaurants, is responsible for shipping parasite-tainted salad mix that has sickened consumers in Nebraska and Iowa, federal health officials said Friday.

Food and Drug Administration officials did not say whether the same greens are tied to a cyclospora outbreak or outbreaks that have sickened at least 400 people in 16 U.S. states.

"The FDA traceback investigation found that illness clusters at four restaurants were traced to a common supplier, Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V.," the FDA said in a statement.

FDA's investigation did not implicate salad mix packages sold in grocery stores, officials said. Taylor Farms has been cooperating with the agency, they added.

The grower is part of Taylor Farms, a Salinas, Calif.-based firm that supplies lettuce and cut vegetables to national restaurant chains and grocery stores. Taylor Farms has 11 processing plants in the U.S. and one in San Miguel, Mexico, according to the company website.

FDA officials, in conjunction with company leaders, will conduct an environmental assessment of the processing facility in Mexico to determine the probable cause of the outbreak. State officials had said the salad mix included romaine and iceberg lettuce, along with carrots and red cabbage. A 2011 inspection found no "notable issues," the FDA said.

Taylor Farms has a history of recalling potentially contaminated leafy greens, including a February 2013 recall of baby spinach over fears it was tainted with Enterohemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC, a particularly virulent bacterium that can cause severe infection and illness. The firm recalled bagged hearts of romaine in 2012 for listeria risk and bagged salad in 2011 over worries about salmonella contamination.

Company officials did not return calls from NBC News.

Food safety experts have criticized the investigation of the cyclospora outbreak, which began with two cases in Iowa on June 28, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the illnesses were reported from mid-June through early July.

Michael Osterholm, Minnesota’s former state epidemiologist who now heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the search for the source of the rare parasite took too long and wasn’t as thorough or targeted as it should have been.

“I think it’s really a mess,” Osterholm told NBC News. “To me it’s a situation where we need a major review.”

Osterholm said state investigators, including those in Iowa and Nebraska, which first tagged premixed salad as the source of the outbreak this week, didn’t conduct case-control studies that would have quickly isolated the cause.

But Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the Iowa state epidemiologist, has defended her state’s response, saying that cyclospora is a difficult bug to detect and track because of its long incubation period and special testing requirements.

States that have reported illnesses include Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

Cyclospora is a parasite excreted in human stool. Illnesses have been associated with contaminated water or food. It causes gastrointestinal symptoms including prolonged diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms.

Cyclospora infections are rare in the U.S., but past outbreaks have been associated with contaminated fresh produce including fruit and herbs. Raspberries imported from Guatemala were responsible for a 1996 outbreak that sickened 1,465 people in the U.S. and Canada and also for a 1997 outbreak that made more than 1,000 people ill, CDC records show.

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UPDATED Thursday, August 1, 2013 --- 9:36 a.m.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Food safety advocates are sounding an alarm at the lack of information being disseminated about an enduring intestinal illness tied to prepackaged salad that has sickened nearly 400 people nationwide.

The outbreak of the rare parasite cyclospora has been reported in at least 15 states, and federal officials warn it is too early to say it is over.

But if you're looking to find out exactly where it came from, you may be out of luck.

Health officials in Nebraska and Iowa say they've traced cases there to prepackaged salad. But they haven't revealed the company that packaged the salad or where it was sold.

The lack of information has fueled concern from critics say information about the outbreaks is crucial for consumers.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, July 30, 2013 --- 2:42 p.m.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Iowa and Nebraska health officials say a prepackaged salad mix is the source of a cyclospora outbreak that sickened more than 178 people in both states.

Public health officials from both states announced their findings on Tuesday. Outbreaks of the same illness have been reported elsewhere in the U.S., but it's not clear if prepackaged salad mix is also linked to those.

Cyclospora is a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness.

Nebraska officials say the salad mix came through national distribution channels. It included iceberg and romaine lettuce, along with red cabbage and carrots.

Local health departments are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify exactly where the contamination originated in the food production chain and where the product was distributed.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, July 30, 2013 --- 2:33 p.m.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska health officials say a prepackaged salad mix is the source of a cyclospora outbreak that has sickened 78 people in the state since mid-June.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced its findings on Tuesday. Outbreaks of the same illness have been reported elsewhere in the U.S., but it's not clear if prepackaged salad mix is also linked to those.

Cyclospora is a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness.

Nebraska officials say the salad mix came through national distribution channels. It included iceberg and romaine lettuce, along with red cabbage and carrots.

Local health departments are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify exactly where the contamination originated in the food production chain and where the product was distributed.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, July 24, 2013 --- 4:02 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal health authorities say more than 275 people in seven states have now been sickened with an unidentified stomach bug.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cyclospora infections, which are often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh produce in the past. It causes diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the infection has been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut and New Jersey. Most of the illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July. The CDC says it isn't clear whether the cases are all linked.

The illness is spread when people ingest foods or water contaminated with feces. The agency said it isn't clear whether the cases are all linked.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press
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UPDATED Tuesday, July 23, 2013 --- 8:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 250 people in at least six states have come down with a stomach bug that could be linked to foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control says the cyclospora infection causing diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms has been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia and Connecticut. The CDC says 10 people have been hospitalized and most of the reported illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cyclospora infections, which are most often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh produce in the past.

The illness is usually spread when people ingest food or water contaminated with feces. The agency says it isn't yet clear whether the cases from all the states are linked.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 --- 10:05 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 200 people in at least four states have come down with a stomach bug that could be linked to foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control says the cyclospora infection causing diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms has been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin. The CDC said eight people have been hospitalized and the reported illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cyclospora infections, which are most often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh produce in the past.

The illness is usually spread when people ingest foods or water contaminated with feces. The agency said it isn't yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are linked.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


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