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Midwestern stomach bug linked to Mexican farm


Lettuce grows at the Teltower Ruebchen organic vegetable farm on June 1, 2011 in Teltow, Germany. Organic farmers in Germany are reporting a surge in demand for lettuce and cucumbers in the wake of an outbreak of enterohemorrhagic E. coli, also known as the EHEC bacteria, that German authorities initially tentatively blamed on cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes imported from Spain. German health authorities have since recanted and now claim they are starting over in their search for the origin of the outbreak that has killed at least 16 people and whose spread is continuing unabated in northern Germany.


Sean Gallup

US food authorities have linked an outbreak of a cyclospora stomach bug in the Midwestern states of Iowa and Nebraska to salad shipments from a Taylor Farms facility in Mexico, after more than 400 people have been sickened in 16 states. 

The bad salad was served to patrons at Olive Garden and Red Lobster chain restuarants in the Midwest. An investigation has traced it back to a Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. facility north of Mexico City, the only international farm owned by the California-based company, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Saturday.

Read more from GlobalPost: FDA decides what gluten-free really means 

The investigation only linked outbreaks to Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants, owned by the Darden Restaurants group. There don't seem to be any problems with salads sold to consumers at grocery stores. 

“It is not yet clear whether the cases reported from other states are all part of the same outbreak,” FDA said in a statement. "The investigation of increased cases of cyclosporiasis in other states continues.”

Although 400 people across 16 states have been sickened by cyclospora in recent weeks, it remains unclear if they are all part of the same outbreak, the FDA added. More research will be needed to establish a link. 

Taylor Farms released its own statement on the outbreak, writing that the "health and safety of our customers is our number one priority. We can confirm statements by the Midwest health officials that products supplied during the month of June are no longer in the supply chain and bagged salad is safe to eat."

What is cyclospora? This nasty, one-celled protazoan often is found in fresh produce, and can hit victims with debilitating symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and bloating, as well as considerable fatigue. 

Unlike milder stomach bugs, a cyclospora attack can often last for weeks — as an unfortunate Texas teacher profiled by ABC found — and is often difficult to diagnose. Once caught, it is usually treated with antibiotics.