Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Traced to Cilantro from Mexico

As of Aug. 10, 457 people had fallen ill from the outbreak, the CDC reported.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

August 13, 2015

2 Min Read
Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Traced to Cilantro from Mexico

Cilantro from Mexico, a large source of produce for the United States, may be responsible for an outbreak of foodborne illness that has affected hundreds of people from 29 states.

Through preliminary investigations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state agencies from Wisconsin and Texas have traced a microscopic parasite to cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico. The produce was supplied to restaurants where some people fell ill, according to FDA’s updated statement on the outbreak.

Cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico also was the source of annual recurring U.S. outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in 2012, 2013 and 2014, FDA said last month in an import alert.

Federal regulators said the microscopic parasite cyclospora cayetanensis causes an intestinal infection known as cyclosporiasis which produces such symptoms as watery diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea. As of Aug. 10, 457 people had fallen ill from the outbreak, with 16 hospitalizations and no deaths, CDC reported in an Aug. 11 update.

During inspections from 2013 to 2015, regulators discovered human feces and toilet paper in the growing fields and facilities at the Mexican farms and packing homes that are linked to the U.S. illnesses, FDA noted. A number of inspected firms also lacked adequate toilet and hand washing facilities; food-contact surfaces were unclean; and water used to wash the cilantro was susceptible to contamination, according to the import alert.

U.S. and Mexican regulators “are enhancing the safety of fresh cilantro with produce safety controls and both sides of the border," FDA noted. Last month, the food-safety agency began detaining without physical inspection shipments of fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla.

FDA advised consumers that cooking food at high temperatures will destroy most pathogens, including cyclosporiasis, although the bacteria may survive if the produce is only washed.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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