More than 100 people have been infected by a parasite linked to McDonald’s salads from restaurant locations in Illinois and Iowa. Public health authorities in both states are working with the fast food chain to determine the exact source of the outbreak.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is investigating 90 cases of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic Cyclospora parasite. Another 15 cases have been found in Iowa.
“Although a link has been made to salads sold in McDonald’s restaurants in some Illinois cases, public health officials continue to investigate other sources,” IDPH Director Nirav Shah said in a statement. “If you ate a salad from McDonald’s since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue, contact a health care provider about testing and treatment.”
The Cyclospora parasite causes intestinal illness as a result of consuming contaminated food or water. Those infected may not have symptoms for a week or more after eating food that contains the parasite. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention symptoms include diarrhea and frequent, sometimes explosive bowel movements, in addition to loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, nausea, gas, and fatigue. Vomiting, headache, fever, body aches, and flu-like symptoms can also occur as part of this foodborne illness.
“This summer there have been several clusters of Cyclospora illness associated with various foods that are commercially available. This week IDPH has identified 15 Iowans who ate McDonald’s salads in late June to early July prior to getting ill,” said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, state public health medical director at the Iowa Department of Public Health. “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.”
McDonald’s is working closely with the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to find the source of the Cyclospora infections outbreak.
In a statement, McDonald’s noted that they are committed to food safety and are taking salads off the menu until they can switch suppliers. “Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier. We are in the process of removing existing salad blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers – which includes approximately 3,000 of our U.S. restaurants primarily located in the Midwest.”