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Salad Scare: McDonald's Salads Have Been Linked To An Outbreak Of Parasitic Illness

It's been a really bad year for salad eaters.

Posted on July 12, 2018, at 6:09 p.m. ET


The Illinois Department of Public Health has linked an outbreak of intestinal illnesses in the state to McDonald's salads.

The department received confirmation of approximately 90 cases of cyclosporiasis, an infection caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, that started in mid-May. Symptoms of this infection include diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea (vomiting is less common than diarrhea), fatigue, and fever. The Iowa Department of Health has noted a similar increase in cases.

According to an Illinois Health Department release, "The initial investigation indicates a link to consumption of McDonald’s salads produced for McDonald’s restaurants. Approximately one-fourth of Illinois cases reported eating salads from McDonald’s in the days before they became ill."

In a statement, McDonald's told BuzzFeed News, "McDonald’s has been in contact with public health authorities from Iowa and Illinois about an increase in Cyclospora infections in those states. Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to voluntarily stop selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier. We are in the process of removing existing salad blend from identified restaurants and distribution centers — which includes approximately 3,000 of our US restaurants primarily located in the Midwest.

“McDonald’s is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control. We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate.”

The news comes on the heels of a fatal outbreak of E. coli earlier this year linked to Romaine lettuce that infected 210 people in 36 states and resulted in five deaths.

According to the Illinois Health Department, McDonald’s is in the process of removing its salads from restaurants and distribution centers and is restocking them with salads from other suppliers.

Illinois Health Department Director Nirav D. Shah said in a statement, “Although a link has been made to salads sold in McDonald’s restaurants in some Illinois cases, public health officials continue to investigate other sources.” The department is advising anyone who ate a salad from McDonald’s since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue to contact their health care provider.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.