The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is initiating an investigation to determine the source of several clusters of a gastrointestinal illness known as cyclosporiasis that is associated with fresh basil served in Florida during mid-March through mid-April. Known as a traceback, the investigation will work to locate the source of the contaminated produce.
The Florida Department of Health asked the FDA on June 2, 2005, to begin the traceback after results of an epidemiological investigation implicated fresh basil as the source of illness in Florida. The Florida Department of Health has 293 laboratory-confirmed cases in 32 Florida counties during March and April of this year. The outbreak includes several clusters and a large number of sporadic cases.
"FDA is aggressively working with our federal and state partners to determine the source of the contaminated product and taking appropriate action to protect the public," says Dr. Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Cyclosporiasis is caused by the ingestion of the Cyclospora parasite and results in the infection of the small intestine. It causes watery diarrhea with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, substantial weight loss, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever and fatigue. Symptoms usually develop about a week after consuming the contaminated food. Cyclospora infection can be treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Individuals experiencing these symptoms after consuming basil products are advised to consult their physicians and notify their local health departments.
In order to help reduce the chances of infection from consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, consumers are reminded of the importance of washing all fresh fruit and vegetables, including fresh herbs, under running tap water before eating them.