Bad news for cilantro fans: the United States has put a ban on imports of the herb from several farms in the Mexican state of Puebla after an investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration and local authorities found several farms guilty of maintaining “objectionable” hygiene conditions.
Out of the 11 cilantro farms investigated in Puebla, Mexico’s 4th largest state, eight farms were deemed unsafe, with five of those eight farms found to be linked to a series of recurrent outbreaks of the gastric disease cyclosporiasis in the United States since 2012. While authorities remain unsure, they think shipments of cilantro from Puebla are responsible for a current outbreak in Texas, which has already left 200 people ill.
Cyclosporiasis is caused when a human being accidentally gets exposed to contaminated food or water that carries the cyclospora parasite. The disease can lead to severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, fever, extreme tiredness, and other flulike symptoms. The effects of the disease can last for as short as a few days and as long as a few months. In rare cases, even after the symptoms disappear, some people have been known to suffer recurrent relapses. In other words, it’s not something you want to happen to you.
While some farms were found to simply not supply workers with either a toilet or a hand washing facility, some farms had no running water at all, and at one farm, the storage tank which supposedly supplied sanitary water for workers to wash their hands with actually tested positive for the cyclospora parasite itself.
This ban will continue on into the future unless the farms in question can provide tangible proof that they’ve taken the necessary preventative measures to improve sanitary conditions.
While you never want to think about the dangers of food contamination, there’s a reason why you’ll find a sign that reads ‘employees must wash hands before returning back to work’ in every bathroom inside every food service establishment: food is really easy to contaminate.
If you have purchased cilantro from Mexico, please be advised to thoroughly wash and cook the herb. Most food-borne illnesses can be eliminated through proper food preparation. Cyclosporiasis is no exception.