FDA bans some cilantro imported from Mexico

Cilantro2The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced earlier this week it has issued a ban on some cilantro imported from Mexico. This comes after an investigation was launched which discovered that the imported vegetable was responsible for hundreds of reported intestinal illnesses in the U.S. dating back to 2012.

A recent article states that since 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with state public health officials, have identified hundreds of outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the United States associated with fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico.

According to the CDC, cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. Symptoms typically appear a week after ingestion and may include diarrhea, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms. This year alone, the Texas Department of Health said there have already been 205 cases of the parasitic infection reported in the state alone. Previous cases have also been reported in Wisconsin, the article states.

According to reports, 11 farms and packing houses that produce cilantro in the state of Puebla have been inspected by the FDA and Mexican regulators from 2012 to 2015. Five of them have been directly linked to the parasite, and eight had “objectionable conditions,” the FDA said in the article.

Investigators found human feces and toilet paper in and around growing fields, and restrooms without running water, soap and toilet paper. Additionally, plastic crates and tables used to sort and transport cilantro were unwashed. One farm’s holding tank used to provide water to employees to wash their hands at the bathrooms also tested positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in an article that tracing cases of cyclosporiasis can be difficult because it can appear similar to other diseases and is relatively rare.

“It’s an infection that is not easy to diagnose and is one that the average physician has very little knowledge of,” Schaffner said in the article. “Hospital laboratories will have some difficulty making such a diagnosis.”

He also added that because cilantro is not usually cooked, which would kill the parasite, these cases are even more worrisome.

However, if your salsa or guacamole just isn’t complete without a dash of cilantro, don’t despair. Imports of the vegetable are still allowed from other Mexican states and according to the article, the U.S. and Mexican authorities have joined forces to enhance safety controls of cilantro farms.

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