The Grapevine

What Is Cyclospora? Parasite Found In McDonald's Salad Linked To Outbreak

Americans were warned about potential food contamination related to the on-going Cyclospora outbreak, in a recent public health alert issued by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest findings from their investigation indicate that salads purchased from McDonald’s restaurants are "one likely source" of these infections. Salads from thousands of restaurants were voluntarily recalled on July 13.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we voluntarily stopped selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier," the fast food company revealed in a statement. "We have removed existing lettuce blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers — which includes approximately 3,000 of our U.S. restaurants primarily located in the Midwest." 

The parasite has also been found in beef, pork, and poultry salads and wraps sold at major stores such as Trader Joe's, Kroger, and Walgreens. These products are distributed by Caito Foods LLC.

The company was notified by their lettuce supplier, Fresh Express, that "the chopped romaine that is used to manufacture some of their salads and wraps was being recalled," said the FSIS.

Cyclospora is an infection caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, usually found in contaminated food or water. It is not likely to be passed directly from one person to another.

The single-celled parasite infects the small intestine (bowel) of the body. After ingesting the contaminated food or beverage, signs of an infection may take as long as one or two weeks to start appearing. 

According to the CDC, symptoms include fatigue, watery diarrhea, explosive bowel movements, loss of appetite, bloating, stomach cramps, pain, weight loss, and more.

Of all those affected, at least one restaurant is located in the following states: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Missouri.

In their investigation of the current outbreak, the CDC confirmed 395 people in 15 states have become ill. Overall, there have been 16 hospitalizations but no deaths were reported.

Those who have eaten at a McDonald’s restaurant in any of the affected states or have consumed any of these products should watch out for symptoms.

People are advised to note the date of production and expiry in the aforementioned wraps and sandwiches. The products at risk of being contaminated were produced between July 15 and July 18.

While Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole and rehydration is the usual therapy recommended by health professionals, most people can recover without treatment. Unless the affected person is a child or has a weak immune system, they are unlikely to develop severe complications from the infection.