Cyclospora parasites were found on U.S. cilantro this year, in what officials say is the first time that U.S. produce has found with it. ( File photo )

The Food and Drug Administration this summer detected cyclospora parasites on cilantro grown in the U.S., in what appears to the be first time a domestic product was identified as the source of the parasites.

The FDA found the cyclospora during a sampling program that debuted at the agency in 2014. Pre-determined fruits and vegetables are sampled through the supply chain over a year to 18 months, including imported items. The sampling program has tested cucumbers, hot peppers, sprouts and whole avocados.

The current testing focuses on basil, parsley and cilantro, and processed avocado and guacamole, according to an FDA notice. Two samples of cilantro slated for import from Mexico contained cyclospora, and the FDA denied them intro in the U.S. The two countries are working to identify the source of the cilantro, according to the FDA.

Another test sample, collected at a U.S. distributor, found cyclospora in July, according to the FDA notice. That sample was traced to a U.S. grower, and the FDA collected and tested another sample at the farm; it too, revealed cyclospora.

“Although this is the first confirmed evidence for the presence of cyclospora in domestic produce, FDA is currently unaware of illnesses associated with the product, and traceforward efforts do not indicate there are any connections between this domestic finding of contaminated cilantro and multistate outbreaks of cyclospora illnesses investigated this spring and summer,” according to the FDA.

Fresh Express, whose salads were pulled from 3,000 McDonald’s restaurants this summer after they were linked to a cyclospora outbreak, said in an August news release that “a possibility exists that a potential source of contamination could be fresh produce grown and harvested in the U.S.” A romaine lettuce and carrot blend were supplied by Fresh Express.

The FDA, state and local health authorities continue to investigate that outbreak.

 

Del Monte vegetable trays

On Sept. 6, the FDA announced that an investigation into an earlier outbreak of cyclosporiasis, linked to Del Monte vegetable trays, was complete. A total of 250 Infections were confirmed by lab results in that outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the numbers of reported cases of cyclosporiasis in the U.S. have returned to “baseline levels.”

The original recall by Del Monte came in early June and was expanded a week later. Federal, state and local health authorities investigated the outbreak, were unable to identify “a single source or potential point of contamination for any of the items that comprised the recalled vegetable trays,” according to the FDA’s Sept. 6 update.

Continued surveillance

The cilantro-related cyclospra findings highlight the importance of FDA’s surveillance, according to the notice, as well as implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. U.S. and foreign partners have an important role in the Produce Safety Rule, according to the FDA.

“These partnerships and others enhance FDA’s ability to act swiftly to detain and remove any contaminated product from commerce, protecting U.S. consumers, as happened after the findings in domestic and imported produce,” according to the FDA notice.

 
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