FDA issues gastrointestinal illness alert regarding raw basil in Texas and Illinois

The FDA is issuing an alert to consumers that two outbreak clusters of a gastrointestinal illness known as cyclosporiasis may be associated with raw basil and mesculin/spring mix salad served in Texas and Illinois. The agency is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and other health authorities to determine the cause and scope of the problem.

Cyclosporiasis is caused by the ingestion of the Cyclospora parasite and results in the infection of the small intestine. It causes watery diarrhea with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, substantial weight loss, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever and fatigue. Symptoms usually develop about a week after consuming the contaminated food. Cyclospora infection can be successfully treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Individuals experiencing these symptoms after consuming basil and mesculin/spring mix salad products are advised to consult their physicians and notify their local health departments.

The two outbreak clusters to date are:

  • In February 2004, approximately 57 individuals in Wheaton, Ill. were reported sick after consuming food containing basil and mesculin prepared by a restaurant. Twenty of these cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing to have been stricken with cyclosoriasis.
  • In that same month 38 people in Irving, Texas were also reported ill after eating basil and mesculin mix at a local restaurant. Sixteen of these cases were later confirmed by laboratory testing as cyclosporiasis.

FDA is actively working with the state and local departments in tracing back the potentially contaminated product to determine its source.


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