Nearly 100 cases of an intestinal illness connected to McDonald’s salads throughout Illinois, the state’s health department said Thursday.
Around 90 cases of cyclosporiasis, caused by the microscopic Cyclospora parasite, have been reported since mid-May, according to the Illinois Department of Health.
“The initial investigation indicates a link to consumption of McDonald’s salads produced for McDonald’s restaurants,” officials said in a statement Thursday. “Approximately one-fourth of Illinois cases reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill.”
The Iowa Department of Health has reported a similar increase in cases, Illinois officials said.
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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 Nirav D. Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “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.”
Officials said the fast food chain is “fully cooperating” with state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
“McDonald’s says it is in the process of removing these salads from its restaurants and distributions centers,” officials said. “McDonald’s say it is re-supplying restaurants with salads from other suppliers.”
McDonald's confirmed to NBC 5 the company had been in contact with public health authorities from both Illinois and Iowa regarding the illnesses.
"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 said in a statement. "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."
According to Illinois health officials, people can become infected by consuming food or water contaminated with feces that contains Cyclospora. The parasite is not spread directly from one person to another.
Symptoms usually begin about a week after exposure, official said, but some people who are infected may not have any. Symptoms may include:
- Frequent bouts of watery diarrhea (the most common symptom)
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Cramping, bloating, and/or increased gas
- Nausea (vomiting is less common)
- Low-grade fever
The infection can be treated with specific antibiotics, officials said. If not treated, the illness may last for a few days to a month or longer.
Previous cyclosporiasis cases have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas and lettuce.
"McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control," the fast-food company said. "We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate."