Several major outbreaks of Cyclospora cayetanensis, affecting a least 25 states, sickened at least 631 people in 2013.
A total of 631 persons infected with Cyclospora were reported from 25 states, including:
Arkansas (16) California (1) Connecticut (2) Florida (33)
Georgia (5) Illinois (14) Iowa (140) Kansas (4)
Louisiana (3) Massachusetts (3) Michigan (1) Minnesota (3)
Missouri (5) Nebraska (87) New Hampshire (1) New Jersey (4)
New York City (8) New York State (2) Ohio (3) Pennsylvania (1)
South Dakota (1) Tennessee (1) Texas (270) Virginia (4)
Wisconsin (18) Wyoming (1).
Most of the victims became ill between mid-June and mid-July. See CDC Epi Curve. And while there were no deaths reported, many of the victims required hospitalization. The victims ranged in age from under 1 year old to over age 90. In addition, over half (58% were female).
Public health officials in Iowa and Nebraska were the first to identify the source of the Cyclospora in their states, making a formal announcement on July 30, 2013. The state health agencies of Nebraska and Iowa, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), concluded that the source of the Cyclospora outbreak was salad mix produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico, which was then served at two Darden-owned restaurants: Olive Garden and Red Lobster. See FDA report here.
According to the FDA, on August 12, 2013 Taylor Farms de Mexico reported that it had suspended its production and shipment of any salad mix, leafy greens, or salad mix components as of August 9th, and would no longer export these products o the U.S. without first obtaining the FDA’s approval.
According to the FDA, the salad mix was the only identified source of Cyclospora affecting as many as 227 victims in Iowa and Nebraska.
Texas was the third state to identify a common source for its resident victims, using both epidemiologic and trace-back investigations to link illnesses to fresh cilantro gown in and imported from Puebla, Mexico. The cilantro was served at three separate and unrelated restaurants and one grocery store, and each of those locations had served victims which later tested positive for Cyclospora.
In other states, the investigations are ongoing.
According to the CDC, the 2013 Cyclospora outbreak caused the number of national Cyclospora illnesses to rise significantly above the five year mean. The average number of weekly Cyclospora cases in the U.S. is fewer than 8 cases even at the peak of the season. See 5-Year Weekly mean here. Since December 2013, the CDC reports that the number of reported cases has returned to the average five-year base-line has returned. Thus, the outbreak is considered over.
Food Safety Lawyer Ron Simon Represents Cyclospora Victims in Several States
Ron Simon was the first to file lawsuits in both Nebraska and Texas, including cases linked to both the Taylor Farms of Mexico salad mix and the cilantro from Puebla, Mexico. “We have filed a number of lawsuits,” explained Simon, “in order to find out exactly how this outbreak occurred so that we can keep it from happening again”
Lawyers are currently awaiting the pending resolution of a mandamus request to the state of Nebraska to turn over its health department investigation into the outbreak Despite the CDC reports, Taylor Fresh Foods and Darden Corporation have decided to wait and see the Nebraska investigation report before accepting responsibility for the outbreak.
Traditionally, the State of Nebraska does not share its investigations with third parties. The issue is currently before a Nebraska state judge who will issue a ruling in the next several weeks.
In Texas, Ron Simon & Associates are conducting discovery and research into the distribution of the tainted cilantro. The firm has lawsuits pending in Texas courts, and has requested copies of all official documents concerning these outbreaks.
Ron Simon is confident that he and his legal team will be able to recover the medical bills and wage losses for this clients, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering these unfortunate individuals had to endure. “Many of my clients have been sick for months,” says Simon, “and in some instances, have suffered recurring symptoms. We are going to get to the bottom of this, and find out where the food system failed us.”