Just two months after a romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak led to the deaths of five people, late Monday night the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert on certain salad and wrap products sold at popular grocery stores.
The stores included in the initial warning are Walgreens, Kroger, and Trader Joe's, as CNN reported. As for why health officials are concerned, it's possible more than two dozen types of beef, pork and poultry salad, and wrap products at these aforementioned stores were infected by a parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis.
But before you get freaked out by the parasite's scary-sounding name, rest assured there are steps you can take to ensure your family's well-being during this time. And with that said, here's what you need to know about the FSIS' new health alert on salad and wrap products.
A Walgreens spokesperson tells Romper in an email:
This product was available in a limited number of our stories in Illinois only. Upon learning of the recall, we notified these stores to immediately pull and dispose of any product on store shelves.
Kroger has no comment at this time, and Trader Joe's did not immediately respond to Romper’s request for comment regarding the health alert.
This latest public health alert centers on "a variety of beef, pork and poultry salads and wraps distributed by Caito Foods LLC, which are sold in Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, and Kroger," according to People.
Caito Foods LLC tells Romper in an email:
On July 27, 2018, Caito Foods, LLC, was notified by one of our suppliers, Fresh Express, that Fresh Express was recalling romaine lettuce that Fresh Express supplied to us as an ingredient for certain wrap and salad products. Our supplier explained that the recall was being issued as a precaution due to a single random test sample that tested positive for Cyclospora. By the time we received this communication, both the lettuce and the products we produced were already well past their best by/use by date. The products had varying “best by/use by” dates with the latest being July 23. Out of an abundance of caution we notified our distribution customers to ensure the potentially affected products were no longer being offered for sale. Caito Foods takes food safety seriously and we are working closely with both the USDA and FDA on this matter. You may find additional information (including the list of impacted products) on the FDA and USDA’s websites. Our customer service team is ready to help anyone who has questions or concerns. Anyone seeking information may call 844-GO-SPART (844-467-7278)Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT.
Health officials believe the affected items were "produced between July 15 to 18, 2018, with the either 'Best By,' 'Enjoy by,' 'Best if Sold By' or 'Sell By' dates ranging from July 18 through July 23, 2018," a press release from FSIS stated. You can check out product labels of concern on FSIS' website for additional help, or you can contact FSIS' virtual representative "Ask Karen" available 24 hours a day.
If you're wondering why FSIS issued a warning about these products weeks after their expiration date, it boils down to a pretty gross reason. Cyclospora cayetanenis — the parasite in question — takes some time to do its dirty work. The incubation period for Cyclospora spans anywhere between two to 14 days after ingestion, according to the CDC. Once the incubation is complete, an infected person develops cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness. Symptoms of cyclosporiasis includes, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Frequent, watery diarrhea
- Bouts of diarrhea alternating with bouts of constipation
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Bloating, flatulence and burping
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches
- Fatigue — this symptom may last long after the active infection has gotten better
- General feeling of unwellness (malaise)
Considering the lengthy time of the incubation period, FSIS expects to receive reports of illnesses within the coming days and weeks. In some cases it could take up to six weeks, according to FSIS' press release.
If you develop any of the aforementioned symptoms, take stock of your grocery store purchases in July. If you suspect you bought a contaminated product, contact your trusted health practitioner ASAP. The best thing you can do right now is to pay attention to your body.
In the event you are diagnosed with cycloporiasis, your doctor will likely prescribe you Bactrim, Septra, or Cotrim, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website states. Additionally, "healthy immune systems will recover without treatment," while "people who are in poor health or who have weakened immune systems may be at higher risk for severe or prolonged illness," according to the CDC.
To recap, you should first check your fridge for any of the products listed in FSIS' health alert. If there is a potentially hazardous item in your fridge, throw it out immediately. Next, monitor your body for any symptoms if you did eat a possibly contaminated product. If you have any concerns during this observation period, contact your doctor ASAP. And lastly, don't hesitate to reach out to FSIS or other public health officials if you have any questions. As with any health alert that's issued, it's always best to stay up-to-date on the latest information and developments.