McDonald's has stopped selling salads at some 3,000 locations across the country amid a multi-state parasite outbreak that has sickened dozens of customers.
Officials with the fast-food restaurant chain said in a statement Friday that the salads have been removed from “impacted restaurants,” mainly in the Midwest, “out of an abundance of caution” until it can find a new supplier. The announcement comes after public health authorities in Illinois and Iowa warned that a number of recent cyclospora infections in those states appear to be linked to the salads.
“McDonald's is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control,” McDonald's said in the statement, adding that it is cooperating with public health officials investigating the outbreak.
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that can contaminate food and water through feces. When ingested, it can cause a non-life-threatening intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms typically appear about a week after the initial infection, according to the CDC.
Since May, hundreds of cases of infection have been reported in the United States.
In June, Del Monte, which distributes fruits and vegetables, recalled prepackaged Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable trays, which contained broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery sticks and dill dip, from certain retailers, including Kwik Trip and Peapod, according to the CDC. Residents in four states — Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — were reported to be sickened by the parasite.
The CDC said earlier this week that there were 227 laboratory-confirmed cases in which people became ill from the parasite after eating the produce.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Friday on Twitter that there were 15 new cases connected to the Del Monte vegetable trays. But he added that the FDA and CDC “do not believe this Cyclospora outbreak is related to the outbreak of cyclospora illnesses possibly linked to McDonald’s salads.”
At the same time, public health officials in Illinois and Indiana have reported that a number of cases there have been linked to the salads at McDonald's. It has prompted the fast-food restaurant chain to pull salads from stores in Illinois and Indiana, as well as Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin, it said.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a statement that about 90 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported across the state — and about 25 percent of those sickened said they had eaten the salads days before the onset.
In Iowa, public health authorities reported similar findings.
“This summer there have been several clusters of Cyclospora illness associated with various foods that are commercially available. This week [the Iowa Department of Public Health] has identified 15 Iowans who ate McDonald's salads in late June to early July prior to getting ill,” Patricia Quinlisk, medical director of the state health department, said in a statement. “Anyone who ate these salads since the middle of June and who developed diarrhea, especially watery diarrhea and fatigue, should see their health care provider and get tested for Cyclospora to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.”
According to the CDC, symptoms of cyclosporiasis may include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Gas, bloating and stomach cramps
In some cases, people may also experience fever and vomiting, it said.
People often recover without medical intervention, according to the CDC, but antibiotics are also used to treat the condition.