UPDATED: U.S. Bans Mexican Cilantro Linked to Ongoing Parasite Outbreak
U.S. officials have instituted a partial ban on cilantro imports after inspectors discovered unsanitary conditions in growing fields and packing areas that lead to illnesses across the border.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that more than 380 people in 26 states have been diagnosed with cyclosporiasis, a parasitic infection that causes gastrointestinal symptoms including explosive diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea.
The FDA and CDC found that cilantro from Puebla, Mexico was responsible for hundreds of cyclosporiasis infections in 2012, 2013, 2014.
According to an FDA import alert, the agency and Mexican officials inspected 11 farms and packing houses and found objectionable conditions at eight of them. Five of those have been linked to the cyclosporiasis outbreaks stateside.
The findings of the investigation alone is enough to make one's stomach churn.
Multiple farms included human feces and toilet paper found in growing fields and around facilities. If they even existed, bathroom and handwashing facilities weren't properly maintained and often lacked soap, toilet paper, running water or paper towels. Transportation crates, tables, and other surfaces were visibly dirty and not washed, and the water used for washing cilantro was vulnerable to contamination from sewage and septic systems.
"In addition," said the alert, "at one such firm, water in a holding tank used to provide water to employees to wash their hands at the bathrooms was found to be positive for C. cayetanensis."
This summer, about 115 Texans became infected with the parasite. Texas, unfortunately, is no stranger to cyclosporiasis outbreaks. Food Safety News reports that a 2014 outbreak sickened at least 126 people in Texas while in 2013, 171 of 469 cases originated in the Lone Star State.
Cilantro coming into the U.S. will need to be inspection and documentation is needed to prove the herb isn't coming from Puebla.