An Iowa official says it’s now up to the feds to continue the investigation of the cyclospora outbreak after it was determined the source was a prepackaged salad mix. Steve Mandernach of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals says they’ve taken the issue as far as they can.
“At this point, both Iowa and Nebraska have come to consensus that it’s not in either state, it’s not a product that either state has regulatory jurisdiction over. So we’ve turned the information that we have over to the federal authorities — both CDC and FDA — and given them that information, and we’ve would hope they will go to the next level of going to the farm and processor
that we have seen evidence of,” he says.
Some 220 people in Nebraska and Iowa were confirmed to have gotten sick from the parasite that causes cyclospora. There were some cases in other states as well, but Mandernach says it’s not yet known if the source for those cases was the same one.
Mandernach says the other states are a little bit behind Iowa and Nebraska in identifying the cases, so as they advance they will determine if this was one overall outbreak, or several individual outbreaks going on. Mandernach is chief of the Food and Consumer Safety Bureau at the department and says there’s a bit of detective work in narrowing down the source of an outbreak.
“What you can normally tell is lots went to the following places, exactly how much you can tell by cases typically, but not necessarily. So then you can go down to bags,” Mandernach explains. He says a lot of what they are able to find depends on the tracking systems used by the various companies in shipping out the products.
Those systems can vary widely. “It has gotten substantially better, particularly with produce, and the ability through most of the distribution systems and reputable chains to be able to literally go back to determine what lots came from what farm,” Mandernach says.
They are not releasing the name of the brand of salad that has been pinpointed as the culprit in this outbreak. Mandernach says the product is not longer in the state, so revealing the name would not help from a public safety standpoint.
Iowa received a three-year cooperative grant in 2012 from the FDA to establish a “Food and Feed Rapid Response Team,” that links his department, the Health Department, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and the FDA into the state’s investigative and response process.