It began a week ago when some unfortunate diners at Olive Garden and Red Lobster in Iowa and Nebraska came down with an intestinal illness after they all ate a salad mix, which came from Mexico, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And the outbreak has continued to grow.
The federal agency said that its investigators traced the outbreak to four “illness clusters” of restaurants, which spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman later identified to CNN as Red Lobster and Oliver Garden locations. However, all of the investigating failed to find any indications that any of the bags of salad mix with the rare type of parasite, known as cyclospora, were sold at U.S. grocery stores.
It is confirmed that the tainted salad mix came from Taylor Farms de Mexico, “a processor of food service salads,” according to the FDA.
The parent company for Olive Garden, Red Lobster and several other restaurant chains such as Long Horn Steakhouse, Darden, described the August 2nd announcement from the FDA as “new information.”
“Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we’ve received from this supplier,” Darden said in a statement, insisting, “It is completely safe to eat in our restaurants.”
According to the latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, close to 500 people have been found ill from cyclospora infections since June, spanning at least 16 states.
Just yesterday, it was reported that 171 people from Texas alone were sickened.
The case count by state is as follows: Arkansas (3) cases, Connecticut (1), Florida (25), Georgia (4), Illinois (9), Iowa (151), Kansas (3), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (1), Missouri (3), Nebraska (85), New Jersey (1), New York (6), Ohio (1), Texas (171) and Wisconsin (12).
There were at least 27 people hospitalized from their infections caused by the contamination.
Although it has been reported that the 236 illnesses reported in Iowa and Nebraska were confirmed to be from the salads served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants, investigators still have not determined a definitive source for the illnesses reported in the other states.
Cyclospora is a single-celled parasite, often associated with contaminated fresh produce. Symptoms may not appear for several days or even weeks, and include watery diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, nausea and stomach cramps. People get the disease by eating food or drinking water, which has been contaminated with feces with the parasite. The ailment usually occurs in tropical or subtropical regions, where cyclospora is common, but is occasionally seen in the U.S., as well.
Taylor Farms has been cooperating with U.S. officials, the FDA said, adding that tests will be conducted at the company’s processing facility in Mexico “to try to learn the probable cause of the outbreak and identify preventive controls.” The last inspection done there in 2011 did not turn up any notable problems, according to the federal agency.
The company’s CEO, Bruce Taylor, told CNN that the Mexico plant distributed about 48 million servings of salads to thousands of restaurants in the Midwest and eastern U.S. this past June. He stated that they test water sources and raw product for E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria and all have been negative, with no evidence of cyclospora in their products.
A Dallas woman sued Darden, soon after the FDA implicated the restaurant company, “for all general, special, incidental and consequential damages” tied to her July 1st visit to an Olive Garden in Addison, Texas.
She contends that four days after eating spaghetti with meat sauce and a salad from Olive Garden, she suffered severe intestinal issues. She says that a clinic near her home took a stool sample and diagnosed her with a cyclosporic infection.
The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has been collaborating with health officials in numerous states since last June in an effort to pin point what is causing the outbreak of cyclospora.
The organization stated, “It is not yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak.”
We will continue to bring you updates as they become available. For more information, feel free to contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).