Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the multistate outbreak of Cyclosporiasis linked to Fresh Express Salad Mix Sold at McDonald’s Restaurants has grown to 476 cases in 15 states.
Illinois, Iowa and Missouri have reported the most cases at 246, 98 and 52, respectively. Twenty-one people required hospitalization for their illness.
Fresh Express pulled the salad mix during the last week of July from McDonald’s and said no romaine lettuce from the lot infected with Cyclospora was sold to direct retail sale consumers.
On Tuesday, John P. Olivo, President, Fresh Express, announced the formation of a Fresh Express Blue-Ribbon Panel to be chaired by world-renowned epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, to study the Cyclospora parasite, a cause of recent multiple fresh produce illness outbreaks in the US.
“Recent Cyclospora outbreaks, with limited evidence as to how they originated, have perplexed federal and state public health officials as well as food safety experts throughout the fresh produce industry, including Fresh Express,” Olivo said. “The purpose of the Fresh Express Blue-Ribbon Panel is to assemble an interdisciplinary group of independent scientific experts to better understand Cyclospora’s mode of action and how the industry can better guard against future outbreaks.”
According to Dr. Osterholm, who will lead the group of experts as Chair, the Panel will also provide a focused work group available to provide collaboration and support to investigators at the US Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health agencies, who are charged with understanding and solving the outbreaks. “The Cyclospora organism has contaminated certain fresh produce during spring and summer months, leaving public health officials unable to determine a confirmed origin despite their best efforts,” Osterholm stated. “Although the fresh produce industry works hard to ensure strong food safety standards, the yearly rounds of Cyclospora outbreaks now demand industry-focused attention.”
The Fresh Express Blue-Ribbon Panel aims to address questions regarding the Cyclospora parasite’s mode of transfer to fresh produce, seasonal or supply chain concerns and potential targeted mitigation strategies.
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