The number of people infected with cyclospora from McDonald’s salads has risen to 286, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
An outbreak of the intestinal infection cyclosporiasis, caused by the parasite cyclospora, was first noted on around May 20, 2018. The Iowa and Illinois departments of health reported the outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on July 12, with reports also coming in from Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
At least 11 people have been hospitalized, but so far no deaths have been reported.
In total 15 states have reported cases, and there may be more developing.
“Illnesses that started after June 14, 2018, might not have been reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. For cyclospora infections, this can take up to six weeks,” the CDC said.
The common factor in all cases was that the victims had eaten McDonald’s salads.
“The initial investigation indicates a link to consumption of McDonald’s salads produced for McDonald’s restaurants,” the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a July 12 posting. “Approximately one-fourth of Illinois cases reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill.”
In response to the reports, McDonald’s swiftly withdrew salads from it menus in 14 states.
In a statement published in nation’s restaurant News on July 12, McDonald’s stated, “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce-blend supplier. We are in the process of removing existing salad blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers—which includes approximately 3,000 of our U.S. restaurants primarily located in the Midwest.”
McDonald’s says salads are safe again
McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook told USA Today on July 27 that McDonald’s acted swiftly to protect the public and to restock its stores with safe food, so that customers would not be inconvenienced.
He added that McDonald’s had obtained fresh produce from a new supplier, and that all the affected restaurants had already been restocked.
“We addressed it very quickly. Customers always appreciate [that],” he said.
During a July 27 phone conference, Easterbrook told investors, “All those restaurants have been fully replenished with a new supply and we continue to trade fully,” Business Insider reported.
In a statement posted on July 13 and updated on July 20, the fast-food behemoth stated, “The health and safety of our customers and the people who work in McDonald’s restaurants is always our top priority.”
The update concluded, “McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality and we continue to cooperate and support regulatory and public health officials in their investigations.”
Cyclospora is transmitted mainly through infected feces in food or water. The CDC said it is unlikely for cyclospora to pass directly from one person to another.
Symptoms include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, intestinal gas, nausea, and fatigue, according to the CDC. Some patients may start vomiting or develop low-grade fevers, but these are less common.
A separate outbreak of cyclosporiasis struck the states of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin around the same time period.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported 237 victims as of July 19, and isolated the cause as Del Monte 6- and 12-ounce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip that were sold by Kwik Trip/Kwik Star stores.
Del Monte voluntarily recalled all its vegetable trays starting on June 8.
The CDC reported that there was no apparent link between the cyclospora outbreak linked to Del Monte fresh produce vegetable trays and the salads sold at McDonald’s.