McDonald’s has stopped selling salads at some 3,000 of its outlets in the country after hundreds of people across several states fell ill after, reportedly, consuming the salads that health experts believe were cyclospora-contaminated.
Cyclospora is, basically, a parasite and one of its species, the cyclospora cayetanensis, causes cyclosporiasis –an intestinal infection that is accompanied by watery diarrhea, with frequent sometimes explosive, bowel movement.
Some of the other symptoms of cyclosporiasis include abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss, flatulence, nausea, and general fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with state and local officials, are investigating the outbreak which they say is, probably, linked to McDonald’s salads.
“We’re working with CDC, FDA, and Iowa to investigate multiple potential sources,” Illinois health department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said in an emailed statement, according to CNN.
“The initial investigation indicates a link to consumption of McDonald’s salads produced for McDonald’s restaurants,” the health department said in a statement.
“Approximately one-fourth of Illinois cases reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill,” said the health department, appealing to all those who have suffered from any of the aforementioned symptoms after eating a McDonald’s salad in the last two months, or so, to get themselves tested and treated.
“This summer there have been several clusters of Cyclospora illness associated with various foods that are commercially available,” the Iowa Department of Public Health said in a statement.
So far, the health authorities have identified 61cases of cyclosporiasis among people from, at least, seven states, including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, who are reported to have eaten salads at McDonald’s restaurant.
The Illinois health department on Thursday reported about 90 cases of cyclosporiasis in the last couple of months, while an Iowa health official confirmed 15 such cases among Iowans, whom the official says had eaten the forbidden salads at McDonald’s sometime between late June and early July, before falling sick.
“We understand how important it is to quickly identify the cause of this foodborne outbreak to help reduce additional illness and we’re working closely with our colleagues at CDC and state partners to get more answers,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
CNN also reports that McDonald’s has been cooperating with public health officials from, both, Iowa and Illinois in regards to the salads crisis.
“McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control,” the company said in the statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier,” the fast food company told CNN in an email.
“We are in the process of removing existing salad blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers — which includes approximately 3,000 of our U.S. restaurants primarily located in the Midwest,” McDonald’s said.
NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff says that cyclosporiasis is a “relatively rare” disease in the U.S.
According to Doucleff, a large majority of food poisonings in the country are “caused by bacteria or viruses, like E. coli and norovirus. In contrast, Cyclospora is a protozoan, which typically hangs out in tropical and subtropical regions.”
Last month, Walnut Creek-based food production and distribution company Del Monte had to recall its pre-packaged vegetable trays, containing broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery sticks and dill dip, from several retailers, after cases of cyclospora infection were reported from the states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
While cyclosporiasis symptoms generally appear about seven days after exposure to the parasite through contaminated food or water, there are some infected people who do not report any of the associated symptoms.
Again, there are others who may experience a relapse of the symptoms, one or more times.
Cyclosporiasis can last from a few days to up to six weeks, depending on how soon, or late, the illness is diagnosed and treated.
The accepted line of treatment for the affliction is Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), which is manufactured under various brand names, including Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim.
As for now, there is no known alternative antibiotic for those who do not respond to the prescribed treatment or those who are sulfa allergic.
The fact that cyclosporiasis symptoms are so much similar to several other intestinal and stomach disorders, a lab test is the only way of confirming the presence of the parasite in the patient’s feces sample.
According to the CDC, people with strong immune systems may even recover from the infection without any treatment; however, if symptoms persist beyond three days, health officials strongly recommend professional help.