An outbreak of cyclosporiasis, a foodborne illness that affects the small bowels and intestines of those infected, has been linked to fresh vegetable trays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Cyclospora is a protozoa, meaning it is a single-cell organism that we would call a parasite that can cause diarrheal illness," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic.
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Some people infected with the Cyclospora cayetanensis parasite may not experience any symptoms. Others may become sick with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems within two to 11 days of consuming contaminated food or water.
"If somebody is otherwise healthy, they’ll get the infection and clear it out; however, people who are immunocompromised and have poor immune systems for whatever reason can have more severe disease and also more prolonged disease," says Dr. Tosh.
Fresh produce often is associated with outbreaks. "Often it’s because they’re being grown in contaminated water or being somehow exposed to contaminated water from some point from where it’s grown to the point that it’s consumed," says Dr. Tosh. "We are still seeing occasional outbreaks related to Cyclospora but also other gastrointestinal pathogens. And, so, it becomes an issue of food safety."
Dr. Tosh says food safety is a public safety issue."It’s really important that we support the regulatory agencies that keep us safe: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CDC, local and state public health organizations. These are the folks that very tirelessly work to keep us safe."