CHICAGO — Public health officials in Illinois and Iowa said Thursday they are investigating an outbreak of foodborne illness after dozens have been sickened in recent weeks after eating McDonald’s salads.
More than 20 people who ate salads at McDonald’s restaurants in Illinois have suffered from Cyclosporiasis — an intestinal illness — since mid-May, while 15 were sickened in Iowa.
Cyclospora is a parasite more commonly found in developing countries, but in the past several years, several outbreaks connected to contaminated produce have occurred in the U.S. Symptoms of Cyclospora infection include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight, cramping, bloating or increased gas, nausea, fatigue, and low-grade fever.
The Iowa Department of Public Health said it has spotted several clusters of Cyclospora this summer, including the 15 Iowans who ate McDonald’s salads in late June or early July.
“Anyone who ate these salads since the middle of June and who developed diarrhea, especially watery diarrhea and fatigue, should see their health care provider and get tested for Cyclospora to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment,” said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa’s public health medical Director and epidemiologist.
In Illinois, public health officials have counted 90 cases of Cyclospora since mid-May. About a quarter of those who have fell ill say they had consumed McDonald’s salads within days of suffering symptoms.
Health officials in both states said McDonald’s is cooperating with the states, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration investigation.
McDonald’s said “out of an abundance of caution” it is in the process of removing salads from some restaurants and distribution centers and will resupply restaurants with salads from other suppliers.
“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 Illinois public health director Nirav Shah. “If you ate a salad from McDonald’s since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue, contact a health care provider about testing and treatment.”
Terri HIckey, a McDonald’s spokeswoman. said about 3,000 U.S. restaurants, primarily in the Midwest are impacted.
“McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control,” Hickey said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate.”