Are fresh vegetables always the best choice? Usually, but not for hundreds of Del Monte customers who recently purchased the company’s pre-packaged vegetable trays.
So far, customers in 4 different states have been infected by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response, Del Monte has recalled their vegetable trays with a “Best If Enjoyed By” date of June 17, 2018. Although cases have been contained to just 4 states, the company included Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana in the recall.
As of July 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 212 laboratory-confirmed infections. Seven people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have occurred to date.
What You Should Know about the Parasite
Although any food-related outbreak is concerning, you shouldn’t avoid all vegetables. Getting in those greens is important.
Instead, here’s what you need to know about Cyclospora cayetanensis:
This microscopic parasite causes an intestinal illness dubbed Cyclosporiasis by experts. The illness can take 1-2 weeks to manifest, and its most identifying symptom is frequent, watery diarrhea.
So how does this parasite get into vegetables?
It usually spreads when food or water gets contaminated by stool from an infected person. The parasite is common in tropical and subtropical areas, making travelers and imported food prime targets for an outbreak.
While getting this infection may not prove pleasant, it is not usually life-threatening.
Other symptoms you can look for include: watery diarrhea, bloating, cramping, increased gassiness, and loss of appetite. Some people also experience nausea and mild fever.
If you suspect you have an infection, you should talk to your doctor. The usual treatment involves taking a prescription antibiotic and possibly an anti-diarrheal medicine as well.
Many people with healthy immune systems can recover without treatment, although symptoms may last longer.
Practice Safe Washing Habits
Anytime you’re eating fresh fruits or vegetables, you should practice safe washing habits.
First, the CDC states that you should wash your hands and all surfaces thoroughly before preparing fruits and vegetables. Use hot, soapy water when doing this.
Then, scrub the fruits and vegetables using a vegetable scrub brush under running water. Once the fruits or vegetables have been scrubbed, then you can eat, cut or cook with them.
Just make sure to rewash the countertops and cutting boards with hot, soapy water at the end as well.
It’s also important to store vegetables in the refrigerator as soon as possible after washing, cutting or cooking. Be sure they are kept away from raw meats to prevent contamination.
Keep Eating Your Greens
In the end, the Del Monte incident is a good reminder to stay aware of food-borne illnesses. Keep eating those healthy fruits and vegetables and practice safe washing habits for your protection.