Over the past three years, CDC has reported approximately 6,000 domestically-acquired cases of cyclosporiasis in the U.S., and the agency believes this number is lower than the actual amount of people infected. The first known contamination in U.S. produce appeared in 2018, with the most famous outbreak occurring in McDonald’s salads that same year. In 2021, there have been 208 reported illnesses, resulting in 21 hospitalizations and no deaths.
In response to this growing problem, FDA unveiled a new plan earlier this month creating a task force to improve prevention, enhance response activities, and fill knowledge gaps to help prevent Cyclospora contamination in food.
Led by multidisciplinary experts across FDA and CDC, the task force’s goal is to decrease the public health burden of foodborne illness caused by Cyclospora in produce.
“In the area of prevention, the new action plan highlights how we’re addressing this food safety issue through the development and delivery of prevention-focused education materials and outreach to stakeholders,” Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said in a statement. “We’re also working with industry to encourage the development of rapid test kits to specifically detect Cyclospora to better facilitate industry testing and root cause analysis activities.”
In addition, FDA plans to partner with others in the industry to find ways to improve control over Cyclospora in the environment and on farms, as well as collaborate with CDC to better understand the case distribution of cyclosporiasis across the U.S. and to advance genotyping methods in clinical, food, and environmental samples.
When it comes to improving response, FDA will expand lab capacity to sample and test for the parasite, providing a greater capacity to investigate outbreak events.
“The FDA is also developing a new investigational tool to help guide assessments of farms potentially implicated in a Cyclospora outbreak to determine potential sources and routes of contamination,” Yiannas said.