Iowa health officials said on Wednesday that the maker of a prepackaged salad mix would not be named because of a confidentiality law.
The state’s health department was able to identify the mixture of iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage as the source of the cyclospora parasite that had sickened 145 people in Iowa.
The Iowa Health Department issued a statement today saying state law requires health officials to “prevent the identification of any business involved in a disease outbreak” unless the information “is necessary for the protection of the public.”
Pointing out that the majority of the illnesses occurred in mid-June, and the fresh produce had a limited shelf-life, and was now expired, the Iowa Department of Health and the Department of Inspections and Appeals determined the implicated salad mix was no longer in the Iowa food chain. Their statement read:
“Thus, there is no ongoing threat to the public health which would require the identification of a particular brand, store, or restaurant where the salad mixture was available. In addition, these sites could not have taken any action to prevent contamination of the mixture since it came pre-packaged and ready-to-eat.”
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To date, more than 370 people in 15 states have contracted the stomach bug caused by the cyclospora parasite, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The source of the infection in states other than Iowa and Nebraska has not yet been determined. The FDA has also issued a statement, saying
“Should a specific food item be identified, the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local partners will work to track it to its source, determine why the outbreak occurred, and if contamination is still a risk, implement preventive action, which will help to keep an outbreak like this from happening again.”
Cyclospora is most often found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, and in some countries is endemic. It is caused by eating produce contaminated with fecal material. The parasite can cause debilitating diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, stomach cramps, vomiting, muscle aches and a low-grade fever.
The illness will respond to antibiotics, but if left untreated, the infection can linger for months. According to the CDC, people in poor health or who have weakened immune systems” are more likely to have a severe or prolonged illness.