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Spike in outbreak of parasites found in bags of salad; multiple grocery chains involved

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The protozoan parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis, is riding on the certain contents of bagged salad mixes, invading consumers’ intestinal tracts and causing loose stools and dehydrating diarrhea.

More people fell victim to the parasite this week and an Iowa couple went to court seeking compensation for the indignity and suffering. They’ve sued Fresh Express, a national supplier of bagged salads.

The number of Cyclospora outbreak cases jumped by almost 40 percent, according to this week’s update. The case count jumped by 46 to 122 people with parasites in their intestines. That was up from 76 when the outbreak was first announced on June 19.

According to a report on Nebraska’s Health Alert Network, that state received its first Cyclospora reports on June 9.

The outbreak’s geographic footprint also expanded with Wisconsin becoming the seventh state with outbreak victims.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Cyclospora infections have been linked to bagged salad mixes containing carrots, red cabbage, and iceberg lettuce, purchased at ALDI, Hy-Vee and Jewel-Osco stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

CDC advises consumers and retailers to not eat, sell, or serve the recalled product listed below. All are products linked to the parasite. These include:

  • Recalled ALDI Little Salad Bar brand Garden Salad sold in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
  • Recalled Hy-Vee brand 12-ounce Garden Salad sold in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
  • Recalled Jewel-Osco Signature Farms brand 12-ounce bagged Garden Salad sold in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.

If any of these bagged salads are found, any remaining should be thrown away without eating any more of it. Anyone living in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin who’ve purchased garden salad without knowing where it came from should also toss the product, according to public health officials.

Matthew Phillips, a plaintiff along with his wife, in the lawsuit became ill on June 3 and required hospital care on June 7. Tests confirmed Cyclospora and his medical care continued through June 20.

The plaintiffs are represented by Bill Marler, the nationally known food safety lawyer, along with local counsel. They’ve charged Fresh Express with negligence. Marler, who is also the publisher of Food Safety News, predicts the parasite will take more victims and other retailers will be implicated in the outbreak.

The CDC says the salads at ALDI, Hy-Vee, and Jewel-Osco do not explain all illnesses in the outbreak. The CDC along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also investigating the possibility of other products being a source of the outbreak.

This week’s updated report said three more people were hospitalized, bringing the total to 19. No deaths are blamed on the parasitic infections.

The three retail grocery chains began recalling the contaminated bagged salad mixes on June 20, a day after the CDC announced the outbreak.

Iowa has 54 of the 122 laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infections. Illinois has 30 victims, the second most. Others with cases include Minnesota with 13, Wisconsin with 9, Nebraska with 8, Missouri with 7, and Kansas with 1.

Illnesses started May 11 and continued through at least June 15. It can take weeks for reports of confirmed infections to reach the CDC. The victims range in age from 16 to 92 years. The median age is 63 with 45 percent being female.

The CDC’s latest update, for June 24, says there are typically clusters of Cyclospora infections that occur during the summer. “CDC is working to determine if other recent cases of Cyclospora infection are linked to contaminated ingredients in these bagged salad misses,” according to the update. “The investigation is ongoing.”

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