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Seventy-six people in six midwestern states have been infected with the cyclospora parasite, likely due to eating bagged salad sold at Aldi, Hy-Vee, and Jewel-Osco grocery stores, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Friday. No deaths have been reported, but 16 of the victims were hospitalized.
The illnesses, which occurred between May 11, 2020 and June 14, 2020, were reported in Iowa (28), Illinois (23), Kansas (1), Minnesota (10), Montana (7), and Nebraska (7).
Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are advising consumers not to eat, and stores not to sell, the following bagged “garden salad” products, which contain iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots:
•ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad sold in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri.
•All Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad sold in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska; South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
•Jewel-Osco Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad sold in Illinois only.
If you have any of these packaged garden salads, the CDC urges you to throw them away, even if some of it has already been eaten and no one has been sickened.
Hy-Vee and Jewel-Osco both said if you have these packaged garden salads you can return them to the store for a full refund, or throw them away. And according to Jewel-Osco, the recalled products have been removed from store shelves, not just in Illinois, but in its locations in Indiana and Iowa.
ALDI also recalled its packaged garden salads and said in a statement the product has been removed from store shelves in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. When CR asked if consumers can return the product to ALDI stores for a refund, the company did not reply.
The warning does not apply to other types of store brand packaged salads sold at Aldi, Hy-Vee, and Jewel-Osco retailers, the FDA says. However, according to the CDC, not all of the cyclospora illnesses have been definitively linked to these bagged lettuces, and the agency is continuing to investigate.
Cyclospora is seasonal, says Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson. The parasite tends to show up more often in warmer weather. In fact, many types of food-borne illnesses arise more often during the summer, according to the CDC, so be aware of the symptoms. (Here's how to avoid foodborne illness in the summer.)
The CDC says the main signs of cyclospora infection are frequent bowel movements and/or watery, even explosive, diarrhea. Flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, body aches, headaches, or low-grade fever may also occur. Some people experience appetite loss, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea and fatigue. But not everyone who is infected has symptoms.
You’ll need antibiotics to fight off cyclospora, so contact your physician immediately if you exhibit any of these symptoms, and be prepared to list everything you’ve eaten in the last two weeks or so. It can take between two and 14 days before any symptoms begin.
Rinsing Lettuce Will Not Help
Rinsing off contaminated lettuce will not keep you safe from cyclospora, says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
“We have no evidence or data that you can effectively wash away any bacteria or parasite that causes foodborne illness including cyclospora. Washing really only removes the dirt and other things that may cling to the greens.”
In fact, the CDC says the parasite is so small you can only see it through a microscope. And, removing it can be nearly impossible because “there are cracks and crevices where the bugs can hide and stick so tightly that water will not remove them,” Rogers says. Cyclospora even has receptors that help them stick to plants, he adds.
“Some cyclospora actually get inside the plant in the cells and in between cells so you will never remove them,” says Rogers.
Products recalled: Bagged “garden salad” from ALDI, Hy-Vee, and Jewel-Osco stores, as follows:
•ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad (12 ounces) sold in stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri with “Best If Used By” dates of May 1 through June 29 and a UPC code of 4099100082975.
•All Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad (12-ounces) sold in stores in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska; South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; all UPCs and expirations dates.
•Jewel-Osco Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad (12 ounces) sold in stores Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. With “Best if Used By” dates of May 16 through July 4 (5-16-20 through 7-04-20), printed on the top right corner of the front of the package and a UPC code of 21130 98135, found on the back of the package and with the unique plant number S5417.
The problem: The lettuce may be contaminated with the parasite cyclospora.
The fix: Check packages for the information above before purchasing packaged garden salad from these grocery brands, and do not buy it. If you have any of this salad in your refrigerator, do not eat it. Throw it away. If you purchased the packaged salad at Hy-Vee or Jewel-Osco, you can get a refund at your nearest store.
How to contact the manufacturers:
Call Hy-Vee Customer Care at 800-772-4098 or 856-832-3881.
Call Jewel-Osco at 877-723-3929
ALDI does not list a contact phone number but you can fill out a form at: https://www.aldi.us/en/contact/
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