FDA bans some cilantro from Mexico, cites human feces in fields

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jul 28, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a ban on some cilantro imported from Mexico after an investigation to determine the cause of hundreds of reported intestinal illnesses in the United States dating back to 2012.

Since that year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state public health officials, have identified hundreds of outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the United States associated with fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico, the FDA said Monday.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically appear a week after ingestion and may include diarrhea and vomiting.

From 2012 to 2015, 11 farms and packing houses that produce cilantro in the state of Puebla have been inspected by the FDA and Mexican regulators. Five of them have been directly linked to the parasite, and eight had “objectionable conditions,” the FDA said.

Investigators found human feces and toilet paper in and around growing fields, and restrooms without running water, soap and toilet paper. Plastic crates and tables used to sort and transport cilantro were unwashed. One farm’s holding tank used to provide water to employees to wash their hands at the bathrooms tested positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis.

The FDA will not allow fresh cilantro from Mexico grown outside of Puebla to enter the U.S. from April 1 through August 31 without proper growing documents.