When we purchase a bag of “pre-washed” lettuce, we expect it to be pre-washed and have no trace of parasites. However, a recent report has been released stating that nearly 400 people have been sickened due to packaged salad mixes. What’s even more alarming is the fact that state and federal officials are refusing to identify the brand or producer of the prepackaged salad mix that is being blamed for these illnesses. The cyclospora outbreak has sickened nearly 400 people in 15 states. Investigators have found that the parasite is extremely difficult to wash off, therefore is not fully removed from the lettuce after it is “pre-washed” by the producer. They found that the parasite came from both retail stores and restaurants, so there isn’t much that consumers can due to prevent themselves from infection. However, critics are saying that if officials knew what brand and manufacturer were behind the outbreak, they wouldn’t have to worry about washing the product and becoming infected.
The spokesman for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, David Werning, stated that they would only release such information if there was a public health risk and there is no current health reason to name the brand or the firm. While federal officials believe the salad mix is related to the illnesses, they are still not clear on whether it is the overall source in the cyclospora outbreaks. The prepackaged salad contains a mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce, as well as carrots and red cabbage. Because the infections occurred in mid-June and early July, the perishable product is likely to be off store shelves by now. Due to the fact that these items are most likely to have gone through the supply chain already, there is no threat to public health and therefore no reason to disclose the name of the brand or firm associated with the infections. However, critics still believe it is necessary to provide this information to the public because we may find that the company has a history of food safety problems and then consumers could decide if they want to keep buying the firm’s products. FDA and CDC officials are continuing to investigate the outbreak, which has reported cases in the following states: Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.