Hundreds Sick From Cilantro Grown in Feces-Strewn Fields

Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that causes the infection
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2015 7:40 AM CDT
Hundreds Sick From Cilantro Grown in TP-Strewn Fields
Bundles of cilantro are shown.   (Spenser Heaps/Daily Herald via AP)

The US is banning some Mexican cilantro thanks to the appalling conditions health officials recently found at multiple cilantro fields two hours southeast of Mexico City. Human feces and toilet paper have been found in the growing fields in Puebla, and the general lack of sanitation for workers has been linked to an outbreak of the intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis. It sickened at least 304 people in the US last year, most in Texas, and another outbreak this year has affected at least 205 people in Texas alone, reports NBC News. The CDC notes " a cluster of illnesses associated with a single restaurant" in Wisconsin has also occurred this year. Cyclosporiasis can cause diarrhea and "explosive bowel movements," and while no one died during last year's outbreak, it sickened people ranging in age from 3 to 88 and resulted in seven hospitalizations, reports the CDC.

Per the import alert issued yesterday, the FDA "believes it is extremely unlikely that these outbreaks of cyclosporiasis are due to isolated contamination events because of their recurring nature, both in the timing with which they occur (typically April-August each year) and the repeated association of illnesses with cilantro from the state of Puebla." Since 2013, Mexican authorities and the FDA have visited almost a dozen farms and packing houses that handle cilantro from Puebla, and at eight of those found either a total lack of toilets for workers or bathrooms without running water, toilet paper, or soap. The facilities will have to prove that conditions are sanitary before the ban is lifted. Meanwhile, reps from Taco Bell and Chipotle have said they get their cilantro from California, reports Bloomberg. (Grossed out? Definitely stay away from the beach.)

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