A prepackaged salad mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage.
(Photo: Elizabeth Weise)
(USA Today) -- The outbreak of a diarrheal disease has been linked, at least in Iowa and Nebraska, to a food service salad mix sold to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. The salad mix was produced by the Mexican subsidiary of an American food-service company, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.
At least 400 cases of cyclospora infection had been reported in 16 states as of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
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Iowa and Nebraska state health officials had linked illnesses in those states to the salad mix, which contained iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage. On Friday the FDA announced that the salad mix was produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico, a subsidiary of Taylor Farms of Salinas, Calif.
The FDA investigation found that illness clusters at the two restaurant chains in those states were traced to Taylor Farms de Mexico, the agency said in a release.
FDA has staffers working with the firm and will be conducting an environmental assessment of the firm's processing facility in Mexico to try to learn the cause of the outbreak. The company has been cooperating fully with all FDA requests.
Taylor Farms is an American producer of prepackaged salads and cut vegetables, based in California's Salinas Valley, "the salad bowl of the world." The company was founded in 1995. Like many U.S. produce suppliers it has subsidiaries in Mexico where it grows vegetables and produce in the winter months.
None of Taylor Farms 11 other facilities have been connected to these cases, the company said in a news release on its website. The Mexican facility had "an exceptional food safety record," the company said.
FDA officials said they inspected the Taylor Farms de Mexico facility in 2011 and "found no notable issues."
The agency plans to increase its surveillance of green leafy products being imported into the United States from Mexico.
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services say they do not believe the contaminated salad mix is still in the food supply in those states. The last date someone became ill with cycloporiasis in Iowa was on July 1, and in Nebraska on July 2. Bagged salad mix typically has a shelf life of no more than 14 days.
None of the bagged salad is still on the market, Taylor Farms said. "Bagged salad is safe to eat."
Whether or not the cyclospora cases in the other 14 states that have reported the illness are also linked to bagged salad from Taylor Farms de Mexico is not known. FDA and the CDC say they are continuing to investigate the outbreak.