July 28, 2015 — The FDA has banned imports of cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, after investigators found human feces in fields and poor sanitation that may be contributing to a massive outbreak of food poisoning in the United States.
Every summer since 2012, hundreds of people have been sickened in outbreaks of Cyclosporiasis, a disease caused by a tropical parasite that spreads when people ingest food or water contaminated with feces.
Since 2013, the outbreaks have been traced to fresh produce imported from Mexico. This year alone, over 200 people in Texas have fallen ill.
The FDA and Mexican regulatory authorities inspected 11 farms and packing houses in Puebla, including five that were previously linked to outbreaks. Problems were found at eight farms.
Inspectors found human feces and toilet paper in cilantro fields. Several farms lacked running water, toilets, and hand-washing facilities. At one farm, water used to provide hand-washing at a bathroom tested positive for Cyclospora. According to the FDA:
“Sources of contamination may include fecal contamination of growing areas, irrigation of fields with water contaminated with sewage, cleaning or cooling produce with contaminated water, and/or poor hygienic practices of workers that harvest and process the produce, and lack of adequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment that comes in contact with the product.”
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness that causes watery diarrhea lasting up to several months. Other symptoms may include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, cramps, bloating, and low fever.
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