(UPDATED, Aug. 2) Two weeks after nearly 3,000 McDonald’s restaurants pulled salads supplied by Fresh Express in connection with an outbreak of cyclospora parasite infections, the salad company recalled deli wraps and salads for retail containing chopped romaine.
A July 27 chopped romaine-carrot mix recall by Fresh Express, Salinas, Calif., for possible cyclospora parasites led Caito Foods LLC, Indianapolis, to pull 25 deli salads and wrap products from retailers. The list includes Caesar salads with chicken, Cobb salads, taco salad and chicken Caesar wraps. No illnesses have been linked to any of the products.
The Food and Drug Administration, however, reported in a July 31 notice that Fresh Express was the supplier to McDonald’s in the earlier cluster of cyclospora infections. The fast food company’s website notices on the outbreak do not name the supplier.
The FDA also posted information related to the July 27 chopped romaine/carrot mix recall. The FDA confirmed the presence of cyclospora in expired salad mix processed by Fresh Express’ Streamwood, Ill., plant.
The FDA’s testing of an unused bag of lettuce from a McDonald’s was completed July 26. The lettuce’s expiration date was July 19. On July 27, the FDA informed Fresh Express, according to the notice.
“Fresh Express committed to using recall procedures to inform companies that received additional products of concern about the sample result,” according to the FDA notice. “Fresh Express also reported that the carrots in the sampled salad mix only went to McDonald’s.”
McDonald’s stopped using Fresh Express salad mix in Ill., Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri and on July 13.
As of Aug. 2, 395 people in 15 states (consumers in four of those states purchased the salads while in other states) have become ill and 16 people have been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Barbara Hines, a Fresh Express spokeswoman, said the company on July 27 recalled a limited number of expired institutional salad products “not marked or intended for retail sale” after a single random sample test of a romaine-carrot mix yielded a positive result for the cyclospora organism.
“Fresh Express notified affected institutional customers to confirm that the expired recalled products were removed or had already been removed from inventories, or from the stream of commerce if they had been repackaged and relabeled for consumer sale,” Hines said in a July 31 e-mail.
“Along with the rest of the industry, Fresh Express is hopeful public health investigators will identify a definitive source for the cyclospora outbreak clusters soon,” Hines said in the e-mail. “The Fresh Express food safety team is working vigilantly with public health agencies and outside experts to assist in the investigation in any way possible.”
Recalled lettuce products were packaged for foodservice use in multi-pound clear plastic packs; they did not have the Fresh Express logo and were not marked or intended for retail sale as packaged.
A list from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on July 30 shows the products were destined for Gordon Food Service, Caito Food Distribution and retailers Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Walgreen’s. Products shipped to the retailers are noted as “RFG.” Product photos supplied by the USDA show some of the recalled items carry the Renaissance Food Group’s Garden Highway Brand.
The FSIS issued the public health alert because products containing meat and poultry fall under the USDA jurisdiction.
Note on update: On Aug. 2, the CDC increased the number of illnesses to 395 — an increase of more than 100 cases from a July 31 report.