FDA Bans Cilantro From Mexico Linked to Stomach Virus Outbreaks

| by Maura Turcotte

Maybe hold off adding cilantro to your next set of tacos. 

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced stomach virus outbreaks in Texas and Wisconsin to cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, the organization has since banned imports of the leafy green from that state in Mexico.

According to the FDA, “objectionable conditions” were found at the cilantro farms and packing houses in Puebla, reports the Daily Mail and Quartz.

Those conditions reportedly included human feces and toilet paper found in the growing fields. Officials also discovered that several farms had no running water or toilet facilities, according to the Daily Mail.

For the last three years, health authorities from both the U.S. and Mexico have been investigating 11 farms in the area. Eight of those farms were deemed to have those “objectionable conditions" and five of the farms were directly linked to outbreaks in the U.S., reports the Daily Mail.

The ban placed by the FDA will only last until the end of August, corresponding with the timing of the outbreaks in the U.S., until the farms prove the safety of the herb.

The cilantro was linked to cases of cyclosporiasis that started appearing in 2012. Caused by a parasite, the disease brings “prolonged and severe diarrheal illness.” Until recently, the disease was generally rare in the U.S. — it is much more common in tropical or subtropical regions, according to Quartz.

Dr. William Schaffner, a disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained to ABC News that identifying the disease itself can be difficult as it appears similar to many others.

"It’s an infection that is not easy to diagnose and is one that the average physician has very little knowledge of," the doctor told ABC News. "Hospital laboratories will have some difficulty making these diagnoses.”

Cilantro has another safety issue: The herb isn't always cooked.

"We use it frequently in salads and it’s uncooked and so there's no way you sterilize cilantro," explained Schaffner.

Fast food lovers can still get their fix: Both Chipotle and Taco Bell told Bloomberg their cilantro comes from California, reports Quartz.

Sources: Daily Mail, Quartz, ABC News / Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons