Fresh basil from Mexico linked to multi-state illness outbreak, FDA warns

An outbreak of intestinal illnesses across the United States is linked to fresh basil imported from Mexico, according to federal officials.

The basil tied to the spate of Cyclospora illnesses was exported from Siga Logistics de RL de CV in Morelos, Mexico, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a statement on the outbreak Friday. The Mexican food exporter recalled the basil that was possibly impacted in July, according to the FDA.

So far, 205 cases of the illness have been reported, five requiring hospitalization, officials said. Cases have been reported in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin, with restaurant exposures reported in Florida, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to the FDA.

Federal officials warned that “consumers should not ... buy, eat, or serve any fresh basil exported” by the company and should not “consume or serve uncooked items like pesto or salad, that may include fresh basil from Mexico, unless you are certain that the fresh basil was not exported by Siga Logistics de RL de CV.”

U.S. officials said it’s best to avoid all basil from Mexico if it’s not clear who the exporter was.

Officials said the Cyclospora parasite — which causes the stomach illness cyclosporiasis — is so tiny it’s not visible without a microscope. The parasite usually travels when feces comes into contact with food or water, according to the FDA.

Symptoms appear roughly a week after infection and include “watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements,” as well as “loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue,” according to the FDA.

It can last up to a month if it’s not treated, the FDA said.

The FDA previously warned of the multi-state Cyclospora illness outbreak in late July.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.