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According to federal agencies, 395 people have been sickened by a parasite in McDonald's salads—more than six times the amount of victims than the initial 61 cases reported back in July.

Zee Krstic
August 03, 2018

Update: Since an initial announcement, which was made on July 13, the number of people sickened by tainted salads sold at McDonald's has soared to upwards of 400—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest update indicates that 395 cases of cyclosporiasis have been confirmed in laboratories. While no deaths have been reported to federal agencies as of yet, federal agencies says 16 of those sickened by McDonald's salads have been admitted to the hospital for treatment.

The original announcement claimed that 61 people in seven different states were affected—there's been reports of sickness in 15 different states, as of the latest update.

Most of these cases have been reported in Illinois and Iowa, but other states affected by the cyclosporiasis outbreak include Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. McDonald's immediately stopped selling salads at more than 3,000 locations across 14 states in the Midwest region out of caution following the initial announcement.

McDonald's and those federal agencies responsible for food safety, including the CDC, worked together to understand how cyclospora bacteria contaminated their lettuce supply in the first place—they traced bacteria back to Fresh Express, a third-party lettuce supplier for McDonald's, who immediately notified other clients of the contamination. According to the Food and Drug Administration, all lettuce contaminated with cyclospora bacteria and sold by Fresh Express should be well expired by now: the final expiration date for affected products was July 19, 2018.

Illinois-based Jennifer Smith is the first cyclosporiasis victim to come forward and sue McDonald's for $50,000 in damages after suffering from the food-borne illness and its serious symptoms.

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Unlike other food-borne illnesses, cyclosporiasis can affect individuals for up to a month. It often occurs after bacteria found within human feces makes its way into food or water. Symptoms appear within a week after first exposure, which can include “watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements,” the CDC explains. Other symptoms include crippling abdominal cramps, severe nausea, and loss of appetite. 

The original article, published, July 18, 2018, and updated July 24, continues below:

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Earlier this week, federal safety agencies reported that McDonald's customers in Illinois and Iowa experienced serious illness thanks to a foodborne parasite that contaminated the fast food chain's salads. Initial reports claimed that nearly 100 people were sick after eating salads containing cyclospora, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that more cases in new states—including Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota—has led McDonald's to pull all salads from menus in 14 different states where the lettuce supply chain is at risk.

The Food and Drug Administration is reporting an official total of 61 cases in 7 different states as of today, but that number is expected to grow in the immediate future as hospitals report additional cases to federal agencies, according to officials who spoke with CNBC.

While many Americans have become familiar with news of E. coli poisoning and its own set of serious side effects, the cyclospora contamination at McDonald's causes victims to experience symptoms up to a week after eating the food in question. The sickness can last for up to a month if left untreated, much longer than those suffering from E. coli poisoning.

Some of the victims are suing McDonald's for damages caused by the food poisoning experienced after eating salads, according to Nation's Restaurant News. Illinois-based Jennifer Smith became seriously ill in early June after eating salad at McDonald's. She suffered from chronic diarrhea, severe nausea, and body-crippling cramps, before she was diagnosed with cyclosporiasis. She's now suing the chain for $50,000, according to reports and this press release from her attorney's office.

While McDonald's has been unable to pinpoint the direct source of contamination, the chain is currently looking for a new lettuce supplier for restaurants located in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia.

Officials from McDonald's released an official statement that highlighted their efforts to investigate, along with the FDA and CDC, where this outbreak began earlier this week—but given that it took federal officials over a month to find the source of the E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce, the investigation could be a long way from being solved.

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