A panel of food safety experts brought together by Fresh Express after an outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanensis in 2018 has released an interim report suggesting prevention methods, how to respond to such outbreaks, and ways the industry, federal agencies, local and state health departments could collaborate on investigations.
Salads Fresh Express supplied to McDonald’s were pulled from 3,000 of the restaurants. The Fresh Express Blue Ribbon panel has many goals, including finding how the Cyclospora could have come from product grown in the U.S.
The panel’s four working groups — Root Cause Assessment, Preventive Measures/Controls, Collaborative Approach and Testing Validation working groups — released a list of 30 recommendations and priorities in the interim report.
Recommendations concerning preventive measures include:
Assess whether screening H-2A workers before they enter the U.S. is feasible or necessary;
- Develop standard lab tests for human specimen and environmental sample testing;
- Develop health/hygiene awareness for farm personnel;
- Increase vigilance among growers and farm personnel of human waste in ag waters; and
- Exclude ill workers from handling raw produce and food contact surfaces.
When responding to a Cyclospora outbreak, the working groups recommend:
- Evaluate ag water sources and adjacent/regional environmental water bodies for evidence of human wastewater/septic sources;
- Look for noncompliance of sanitary facility and non-farm employee human encampments; and
- Increase efforts to attribute animal cross-contamination potential, especially birds, from contaminated water bodies.
Recommendations for collaboration following an outbreak include:
- Focus on activities weeks before harvest, due to a long life cycle of C. cayetanensis;
- Improve capacity of states to analyze samples for C. cayetanensis;
- Develop relationships between the produce industry and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s parasitology group;
- Share case counts with companies so they can make decisions to protect public health; and
- Ensure that potentially involved companies have access to summaries of investigations.
“This is an exceptional collaboration by those most knowledgeable about a particular food safety risk,” Michael Osterholm, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the panel, said in the release. “Their value in shedding light on the Cyclospora cayetanensis outbreak problem cannot be overstated and is already providing long-needed assistance toward discovering how best to manage risk and limit future outbreaks.”
The panel has developed a fact sheet that is available, along with the full report, at https://www.freshexpress.com/blue-ribbon-panel-report.