At least 395 people across 15 states have become ill with Cyclospora infection linked to contaminated salads sold at McDonald’s locations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed. The infection most commonly causes watery, and sometimes explosive, diarrhea, but could also be accompanied by loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue.
The outbreak has caused no deaths, but 16 people have been hospitalized, Quartz reported.
Cyclospora cayetanensis causes an infection called cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness that develops after consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite. Raw fruit and vegetables most commonly become infected through exposure to human feces, according to The Mirror. In most cases, the body successfully rids itself of the infection, but the symptoms can sometimes last for a few months.
According to CNN, the contamination may have begun as early as May. The outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA to launch investigations, which have confirmed that packaged romaine lettuce and carrot mix distributed to the fast-food chain are contaminated.
The cases detected in Connecticut, Tennessee, and Virginia involved patients who consumed McDonald’s salads while traveling in Kentucky, according to the Mirror report.
“An Iowa woman claims that she became so severely ill she was ‘forced to wear Depends diapers.'”
In a July 20 statement, McDonald’s said its restaurants have replaced the lettuce mix used in their salads with a different kind supplied by a different distributor, the Mirror reported.
“McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality and we continue to cooperate and support regulatory and public health officials in their investigations,” the fast-food company said in a statement, adding that “The health and safety of our customers and the people who work in McDonald’s restaurants is always our top priority.”
The outbreak has also prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to issue a public health alert on other products linked to the distributor, Caito Foods LLC of Indianapolis, that could potentially be contaminated with Cyclospora, including beef, pork, and poultry salad and wrap products.
The contamination has led an Iowa woman to file a lawsuit against Fresh Express, a company that supplies salads to McDonald’s, Trader Joe’s, and Kroger, according to Business Insider. The woman, Kellie McCall, is claiming that she became so severely ill she was “forced to wear Depends diapers.” McCall contends she ate a McDonald’s salad in Onawa, Iowa, in mid-June, and that her symptoms still persist.