U.S government agencies are conducting investigations of illnesses that are linked to hundreds of Del Monte vegetable trays contaminated with a parasite.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local agencies to examine more than 200 confirmed cases of the parasite-borne cyclosporiasis, which were reported in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois.
At least seven people have already been hospitalized because of the intestinal illness caused by the Cyclospora cayetanensis parasite.
The symptoms of an infection often show up a week after the consumption of contaminated food. It means that the number of cases may continue to climb as more people start to report their illness.
Food-borne disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, from the University of Minnesota, said that he suspects that the number of cases could be much higher than the 212 that have so far been confirmed by health officials because of delayed onset of symptoms.
Signs Of Infection
Symptoms of infection include stomach cramps and pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, weight loss, and fatigue. Vomiting and other flu-like symptoms may also happen. Some people, however, may not show any symptom at all.
If not treated, the illness may last for a few days to a month, or even longer. The symptoms may go away but they may return one or more times.
"Some symptoms, such as diarrhea, can return; and some symptoms, such as fatigue, may continue after the gastrointestinal symptoms have gone away," the CDC said.
The FDA advised those who have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days to contact their healthcare provider.
Who Is At Risk
People who live in countries where the parasitic illness is endemic particularly in the tropical and subtropical regions are at greater risk of infection. People also become infected with Cyclospora when they consume food or water that are contaminated with the parasite such as in the case of the current outbreak.
The outbreak involves Del Monte's 6oz and 12oz vegetable trays that contain broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and dill dip, and 28oz veggie trays that include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and dill dip. Consumers have been warned not to consume these products.
"Consumers who have purchased recalled Del Monte 6oz, 12oz and 28oz vegetable trays from IA, IL, MN, and WI should discard the product immediately," the FDA said.
It isn't, however, clear which of the ingredients is behind the outbreak and investigation is currently ongoing.