The FDA has announced that they will be banning some imports of cilantro from Mexico because tests found that there was human feces and toilet paper in the fields where it was grown. A government investigation into fields in Puebla showed that human waste was present there.
Now, evidence has come to light showing that this cilantro may have been responsible for the outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses in 2013 and 2014 in the U.S. This year, health authorities believe that some of the illnesses that we have seen recently are also attributed to this cilantro.
Over the past three years, the combined forces of the United States and Mexico health authorities investigated eleven different farms and places where cilantro is packaged in the past three years, and eight of those sites were problem areas, with five that were linked to the outbreaks in the U.S.
Authorities discovered that the farms didn’t have running water and didn’t provide toilets to their workers, which is apparently why they used the fields. However, it wasn’t only the fields that had them concerned, they also found contaminated containers filled with cilantro and even positive tests for the cyclospora parasite in water samples.
The reason that this is so scary is how popular cilantro is. This herb is used in Indian food and Latin cuisine and for flavor in various other dishes from cultures around the world. Many of the best restaurants in the United States use cilantro.
In fact, there were more than 200 cases of the parasite that the Food and Drug Administration found in the water in Texas alone.
The cyclospora parasite is an infection of the small intestine and is causes explosive and watery diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness, fever, stomach cramps and much more. Some people do not develop symptoms and others attribute the symptoms to something else, such as another type of common illness.
The alerts that the FDA issued on Monday outlined where the government agency suspected that the contamination had occurred: the fields where the cilantro was growing and where it came into contact with the human feces which contained the parasite, as well as in the contaminated water or containers during the growing process, the packing or the processing of the cilantro.
This will seriously impact the trading opportunities that the farms and packing sites that were located in Puebla had previously with the United States.
The FDA ban doesn’t affect shipments forever though. Only certain shipments of cilantro that came from Puebla sometime between April and August, which is within the times of the outbreaks.
The ban during the summer will continue for the foreseeable future however, unless the companies can provide the FDA proof that they have cleaned up their collective acts and that the product they are attempting to import is completely safe.
But just to be safe, you may want to skip the guacamole for a while, as well as any other products that could contain imported cilantro from Mexico.