The California Department of Public Health is warning people not to eat cactus imported from Mexico that were sold at specific retail and wholesale locations around the state. The cactus has been found to contain unapproved pesticides. A recent routine surveillance sample collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation isolated as much as 5.8 parts per million of Monocrotophos, an organophosphate-based pesticide that has been barred from use in the United States since 1989. The agency immediately removed all of the product it could locate from store shelves and distribution centers. The affected cactus has been quarantined and/or destroyed so that it doesn’t pose a threat to consumers. The contaminated cactus was sold and offered for sale to consumers and wholesale customers at:

  • La Superior SuperMercados in Sacramento, Stockton, Woodland and Pittsburg between Feb. 6-12, 2014
  • Mercado del Valle in Concord between Feb. 6-12, 2014
  • La Sucursal Produce located on Central Avenue in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2014
  • Fresh American Produce located on Mission Road in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 2014
  • J&L Produce located on Central Avenue in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2014

Whole cases of the cactus purchased from the wholesale produce companies were likely labeled with a supplier sticker that stated, “Comercializadora De Chiles, Selectos Nieto S. De R.L. De C.V.” Product sold in the retail stores was sold in bulk bins without any specific branding or labeling. If consumers have any of this product remaining in their possession, they should return it to the place of purchase or dispose of it in the garbage. Symptoms of acute poisoning may include sweating, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, hypersalivation, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Consumption of Monocrotophos can lead to neurotoxicity and permanent nerve damage. No illnesses have been reported to date. However, due to the time involved in tracing an illness back to a specific food product, it is impossible to say whether or not any illnesses have occurred. California health officials are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify the growers and importers responsible for shipping pesticide-contaminated cactus into the U.S. so future shipments can be examined and verified they are in compliance before making their way into the marketplace. Anyone who consumed cactus and experienced symptoms of illness is advised to contact a healthcare provider.