September 4, 2014

Cilantro is linked to a rash of illnesses in Texas.Chefs and Texas culinary school students alike should take particular care over the next few days when selecting the produce for their dishes. A cyclosporiasis outbreak that has been reported in several parts of Texas over the month of August may be linked to fresh cilantro being shipped into the Southern United States from Mexico.

Cyclospora is an intestinal parasite. Spread predominantly through human consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with the cyclospora parasite, cyclosporiasis is the manifestation of that parasite’s entrance into your digestive system. Though the symptoms vary between different individuals, the illness has been known to cause nausea, exhaustion, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and cramps. Symptoms last anywhere from several days to a month in most people.

According to Outbreak News Today, 166 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported in Texas in 2014, with 126 considered as categorized under the outbreak. Those 126 cases were all diagnosed after May 1, and occurred predominantly in Dallas County.

The outbreak is now contained, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which in tandem with the Food and Drug Administration led an investigation into the rash of illness. The two agencies investigated four groups of restaurants in North Texas, all of which had been reported by sufferers of the illness as places they’d eaten. Those individuals also all indicated that they had consumed a dish including cilantro at one of those restaurants within two weeks of experiencing the first symptoms.

Though the investigation was unable to find any physical evidence of Cyclospora, the two agencies did uncover a “strong epidemiological link” between the outbreak and cilantro. According to Outbreak News, Puebla, a state in Mexico that provided cilantro to many of the restaurants, was identified as the cause of a cyclosporiasis outbreak in 2013.