On April 28, 2005, the Florida Department of Health announced the ongoing investigation of an upsurge of Florida residents ill with Cyclospora. Over the course of several weeks, Florida residents had complained of intermittent or persistent diarrhea, loss of appetite, substantial weight loss, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and fatigue.
Over the course of the next weeks and months, Health Departments, including Sarasota County, worked to locate the cause of the outbreak. Sarasota County focused on the Beanstalk restaurant as the most likely source given the number of ill reporting having eaten there in the incubation period of this intestine burrowing parasite.
According to the Florida Division of Environmental Health, Food and Waterborne Disease Program, the Bean Stalk restaurant was on of two restaurants implicated in Sarasota County. The Bean Stalk was described in a presentation by Roberta Hammond, PhD as “Sarasota #1 – independent restaurant/caterer to several offices” – including Mediserve. Ultimately, ninety one cases were confirmed as having been sourced from the Bean Stalk restaurant.
Due in part due to outbreaks in Canada of Cyclospora illnesses linked to Florida, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a product “trace-back.” This trace-back eventually implicated Country Home SA, Fundo Los Azahares, a manufacturer/shipper in Peru with the sale of contaminated “basil, fresh shredded mixed vegetables for salads and mesculin lettuce.”
The reason given for the FDA Alert was:
Fresh (raw) basil was implicated by an investigation of outbreaks of cyclosporiasis infection with the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis that occurred in the spring of 2005, in multiple counties in Florida. FDA determined that the source of the implicated basil was Country Home, S.A., located in Huaral, Peru. In addition, FDA identified Country Home, S.A. as a possible source of mixed lettuce, called spring mix or mesclun that was implicated by investigations of two outbreaks of cyclosporiasis that occurred in 1997.