May 24, 2004 (CIDRAP News) Two outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora may have been associated with raw basil and "mesculin [mesclun]/spring mix salad" served at restaurants in Illinois and Texas, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
About 57 people in Wheaton, Ill., became ill in February after eating basil and mesclun prepared by a restaurant, the FDA said in an alert to consumers. Twenty of the cases were confirmed as cyclosporiasis. The same month, 38 people in Irving, Tex., fell ill after eating basil and mesclun at a local restaurant, and 16 cases were confirmed as cyclosporiasis.
Cyclosporiasis, an infection of the small intestine, causes watery diarrhea with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements, the FDA said. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and fatigue. Symptoms usually appear about a week after eating contaminated food.
The FDA said the infection can be treated with antibiotics. People experiencing the above symptoms after eating basil and mesclun or spring mix salads should consult a physician and notify their local health department, the agency said.
The FDA said it was working with other health authorities to trace the source of the potentially contaminated products.
Cyclosporiasis was little-known until the 1990s, according to a 2000 report in Clinical Infectious Diseases. In 1996 a multistate outbreak in the United States and Canada was traced to Guatemalan strawberries, demonstrating that the illness is spread by food, according to the report.
May 21 FDA news release