New parasitic infections linked to Del Monte brand pre-cut fresh vegetables continue to be reported even though the multi-national company initiated a recall on June 8.

At least 144 people are confirmed to be infected by Cyclospora, a microscopic parasite, according to an outbreak update posted June 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

However, in Wisconsin, where the vast majority of the infected people live, public health officials report 149 confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis. In all of 2017 Wisconsin had only 23 laboratory confirmed cases of Cyclospora infection.

“Of people with completed interviews (in the current outbreak), 106 of 115 cases report consuming a Del Monte vegetable tray purchased at a Kwik Trip location in Wisconsin. Most ill persons reported purchasing the tray on or after May 16,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which also posted an outbreak update June 21.

It isn’t unusual for there to be lag time between when state officials receive confirmed test results and when they are reported to the CDC, regardless of the foodborne pathogen involved.

“Illnesses that began after May 10 might not have been reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported,” according to the CDC outbreak update.

The CDC and state officials continue to warn consumers and retailers not to eat or sell anything on the recalled Del Monte vegetable trays, which containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip. The recalled products had various best-by dates, but the latest date was June 17.

Investigators from the Food and Drug Administration have not yet identified which of the ingredients in the vegetable trays is the vehicle for this outbreak. The agency is checking each component of the products. Also, FDA is reviewing distribution and supplier information related to the vegetable trays.

Washing or other cleaning processes may not be sufficient to eliminate the parasite from fresh produce or other raw foods, according to the FDA.

Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores in five states sold the 6-ounce and 12-ounce Del Monte vegetable trays that are implicated in the outbreak. Those states are Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration’s website. Additionally, Del Monte recalled “small veggie trays” that were distributed to unidentified retailers in Illinois and Indiana. Those 28-ounce trays also includes broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and dill dip.

In addition to the Kwik Trip and Kwik Star locations, Del Monte reported to the FDA that it also distributed the implicated vegetable trays to Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, FoodMax Supermarket and Peapod. 

Symptom onset for the cases included in the CDC’s tally as of June 21 ranged from May 14 through June 8. The victims range in age from 20 to 79 years old. Six people have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported. Most of the sick people reported eating Del Monte brand pre-cut vegetables in pre-packaged trays, the CDC reported.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any items from the recalled Del Monte vegetable and dip trays and developed symptoms of cyclosporiasis should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to Cyclospora parasites.

Symptoms usually include diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted.

Some people who are infected with Cyclospora parasites do not have any symptoms. If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times, making diagnosis difficult.

“The Cyclospora parasite needs time — days to weeks — after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person,” according to the FDA notice. “Therefore, it is unlikely that cyclosporiasis is passed directly from one person to another.”

Cyclospora parasites can contaminate foods or beverages, but in the United States they are most often found on fresh produce. A spike in U.S. cases has been recorded during the summer months in recent years among people who consumed fresh cilantro from Mexico.

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