Del Monte Vegetables Infect over 200 People with a Parasite
Are fresh vegetables always the best choice? Usually, yes. But, this is not the case for hundreds of Del Monte customers who recently purchased the company’s pre-packaged vegetable trays.
The vegetables are leading to infections in four different states. It comes from a parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis, which is making customers sick, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response, Del Monte recalled their vegetable trays that had a “Best If Enjoyed By” date of June 17, 2018. Although cases have been contained to just four states, the company included Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana in the recall.
As of July 5th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 212 laboratory-confirmed infections. Seven people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have occurred to date.
What You Should Know about the Parasite in Del Monte Vegetables
Although any food-related illness outbreak is concerning, you shouldn’t avoid all vegetables. It is important to get your greens in.
Instead, here’s what you need to know about Cyclospora cayetanensis:
This is a microscopic parasite that causes an intestinal illness dubbed Cyclosporiasis by experts. The illness can take 1-2 weeks to manifest. Its most identifying symptom is frequent and watery diarrhea.
So How Does This Parasite Get into Vegetables?
It usually spreads when food or water gets contaminated by an infected person’s stool. 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 be pleasant, it is not usually life-threatening. As mentioned before, no Del Monte customers died from the infection.
Other symptoms you can look for include: 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 their symptoms may last longer.
Practice Safe Washing Habits
Anytime you’re eating fresh fruits or vegetables, you should practice safe washing habits. This applies to pre-packaged vegetable trays as well. Del Monte customers may have gotten sick because they didn’t properly wash the vegetables before serving them.
First, the CDC states that you should wash your hands and all surfaces thoroughly before preparing fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, you should 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 safely. Just make sure to rewash the countertops and cutting boards with hot, soapy water at the end of the preparation as well.
Additionally, storing food properly can help prevent transmitting illnesses like this one. For example, you should put vegetables in the refrigerator as soon as possible after washing, cutting, or cooking. They should also be 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. You should keep eating fruits and vegetables. But, it is important to always practice safe washing habits of both your hands and your produce. This way, you know that you are protecting yourself from parasites like this one.