Salads at McDonald’s have been linked to an intestinal illness outbreak

McDonald’s lovers, you may want to hold off on your greens: The Illinois and Iowa health departments are currently investigating an outbreak of intestinal illnesses that has been linked to McDonald’s salads.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced yesterday that it received confirmation of approximately 90 cases of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness caused by the cyclospora parasite.

In addition to the Illinois reports, at least 15 cases were also reported in Iowa.

In both states, reports of people becoming ill began in May.

The IDPH said approximately a quarter of the Illinois-based incidents involved people who reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill.

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“Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier,” McDonald’s told CNN in an email. “We are in the process of removing existing salad blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers — which includes approximately 3,000 of our U.S. restaurants primarily located in the Midwest.”

The fast-food chain is fully cooperating with both state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, according to the IDPH statement.

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“Although a link has been made to salads sold in McDonald’s restaurants in some Illinois cases, public health officials continue to investigate other sources,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D in a news release.  “If you ate a salad from McDonald’s since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue, contact a healthcare provider about testing and treatment.”

According to the Iowa Department of Health, “cyclospora is a parasite commonly found in developing countries, but in the past several years, several outbreaks have occurred in the U.S., especially during the summer months.”

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Symptoms include:

  • Frequent watery diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach cramps/pain, bloating and/or increased gas
  • Nausea (vomiting is less common)
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever

Cyclosporiasis can be treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, the illness “may last for a few days to a month or longer,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In the past, cyclosporiasis cases have been linked to various types of fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas and lettuce, as well as a recent outbreak related to Del Monte vegetable trays.

Another food recently tied to an outbreak? Honey Smacks cereal. More than 100 people have gotten sick since March from an outbreak of salmonella in 33 states.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps and typically present 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.

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Symptoms last about four to seven days, and although most people improve without treatment, some may require hospitalization because of severe diarrhea. Thirty people have been hospitalized in this outbreak.