The FDA has announced a ban on imports of cilantro grown on certain farms in Mexico, as well as heightened scrutiny for Mexican-grown cilantro after a series of inspections uncovered sorely unsanitary practices on sites where the herb was being grown. “Objectionable conditions” were noted by the agency at farms in the state of Puebla, Mexico, including the presence of human feces and toilet paper in growing fields, and the FDA believes that these farms are responsible for hundreds of cases of the parasitic illness cyclosporiasis in the US in recent years.
Bloomberg reports that during inspections of 11 farms by the FDA and Mexican authorities, health officials found that eight had “bathrooms without soap, toilet paper or running water, in addition to the human feces and toilet paper in growing fields.” Some of these farms “had a complete lack of toilet facilities.”
Authorities believe the conditions at these farms are the reason behind recent US outbreaks of cyclosporiasis. The CDC notes in 2014, at least 304 people came down with the parasitic illness, which causes intestinal problems including diarrhea and explosive bowel movements.
An FDA alert in wake of the inspections notes “the most likely routes of contamination of fresh cilantro are contact with the parasite shed from the intestinal tract of humans affecting the growing fields, harvesting, processing or packing activities or contamination with the parasite through contaminated irrigation water, contaminated crop protectant sprays, or contaminated wash waters.”
And the CDC’s data would appear to support that; during last year’s outbreak 64 percent of those who came down with cyclosporiasis were in the state of Texas, and a full 57 percent of those stated that they had consumed fresh cilantro prior to coming down with the illness.
As of Monday, cilantro grown on farms in Puebla will not be permitted into the US without prior documentation that concerns over sanitary conditions have been addressed, while cilantro from other regions of Mexico will need to be accompanied by documentation to prove that it does not come from Puebla state.