WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration says an outbreak of stomach illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska is linked to salad mix served at local Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants and supplied by a Mexican farm.
The outbreak of cyclospora infections has sickened more than 400 people in 16 states in all. The agency says it is still working to determine whether the salad mix is the source of illnesses in the other 14 states.
“It is not yet clear whether the cases reported from other states are all part of the same outbreak,” the agency said in a statement. “The investigation of increased cases of cyclosporiasis in other states continues.”
Both Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants. In a statement, Darden spokesman Mike Bernstein said the FDA’s announcement is “new information.”
“Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we’ve received from this supplier,” Bernstein said.
The FDA said it traced illnesses from the restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa to Taylor Farms de Mexico, the Mexican branch of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms. The company, which provides produce to the food service industry, said its facility located about 180 miles north of Mexico City in San Miguel de Allende is the only one of its 12 sites to be connected to the cases.
In an email, the chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms, Bruce Taylor, said the Mexican plant produces millions of servings of salads for thousands of restaurants in the Midwest and eastern U.S. every month. He said the facility has an extensive water testing program.
“All our tests have been negative and we have no evidence of cyclospora in our product,” Taylor said. “We are working closely with the FDA to continue this investigation.”
The FDA said its investigation has not implicated any packaged salad sold in grocery stores.