The CDC has been notified of 378 cases of Cyclospora infection from the following 16 health departments: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York City, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.
Most of the illness onset dates have ranged from mid-June through early July.
At least 21 persons reportedly have been hospitalized in three states.
Nebraska and Iowa have performed investigations within their states and have shared the results of those investigations with CDC. Based on their analysis, Cyclospora infections in their states are linked to a salad mix.
To date, no public health official has announced the manufacturer of the salad mix or where the salad mix was sold. My thoughts:
Health officials in Nebraska and Iowa had said Tuesday they had traced the outbreak to prepackaged salad and that the bulk of the threat had passed. They said the salad was not grown locally, but they did not reveal where it did come from. That raised concern from those who argue companies should be held accountable for outbreaks and that customers need more information to make smart food choices.
“If you want the free market to work properly, then you need to let people have the information they need to make informed decisions,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in class-action food-safety lawsuits.
Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler said he understands that the cause of most outbreaks is discovered long after the peak of illnesses has passed. “However, disclosure gives the public information on which companies have a strong or weak food safety record,” he said. Although public health officials shouldn’t name a source until they’re certain, unless it’s a clear threat to the public health, once the product is identified it should be made public.
“The public has a right to know and to use the information as it sees fit, and people — especially government employees — have no right to decide what we should and should not know,” Marler said.
But, critics say, if people knew what brand and manufacturer were behind the outbreak, they wouldn’t have to worry about washing.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in food safety cases. “Consumers have a right to know. Presumably, you wouldn’t want to buy produce from a manufacturer that has been poisoning you.” …
But critics like Marler say that’s still no reason to withhold the name of the product and the manufacturer responsible for those illnesses. Even if the salad mix is not available, consumers could learn whether the company involved has a history of food safety problems and decide whether to continue buying the product or patronizing the places where it was served.
“For the government to make that decision for the public, that we don’t have the right to know to make that decision for our families, it’s wrong,” Marler said. “It appears to most people that that’s really a decision in favor of business instead of the public.”
Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in class-action food-safety lawsuits, said withholding the information can create general fears that damage the reputation of good actors in food production. Marler said consumers should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to shop and grocery stores or eat at restaurants where tainted produce was sold. Some states also are slow to interview infected people, he said, which reduces the chances that they remember where they ate.
Marler said withholding the information can create general fears that damage the reputation of good actors in food production. He said consumers should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to shop and grocery stores or eat at restaurants where tainted produce was sold.
“If you want the free market to work properly, then you need to let people have the information they need to make informed decisions,” he said.
Bill Marler, a foodborne illness attorney based in Seattle, told CIDRAP News that a handful of states have laws like Iowa’s, with language barring the identification of products or sources unless there’s a public health need to know. However, he says laws allow health departments leeway with their disclosure decisions.
Unfortunately, the provisions can unintentionally send the wrong message to the public, that health departments are protecting companies or businesses, Marler said. “Health departments are deciding that they know better about what they should disclose than you do or I do.” He added that health departments are attuned to protecting patient information and privacy, and that default position seems to sometimes extend to businesses, as well.
Marler predicted that the source of the prepackaged lettuce and the outlets that sold or served it will eventually be revealed through the efforts of reporters or lawyers. He said over the last decade of outbreaks linked to leafy greens, there were no instances in which the sources weren’t ultimately revealed.
He said the nearly one dozen patients who have contacted him about the outbreak all had eaten at the same large restaurant chain. Only a handful of companies in the United States produce large quantities of prepackaged salad for restaurants, and some are equipped to pack bagged salad for grocery stores, as well, he added.
“Eventually, it’s going to come out anyway. Health departments should be open and honest with the public,” Marler said.
“As a consumer, I want to know companies’ safety records so that I know in the future if I want to buy the product,” he said, adding that arming consumers with information that guides their buying decisions is a legitimate public health rationale for sharing the information.
“Consumers have a right to know who poisoned them,” says Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in foodborne illness outbreaks. “We know it’s a mixed lettuce outbreak. Health officials have given us those details. Isn’t it appropriate for the public to know what happened? Whether it was a failure of an irrigation system, or that the company was buying product from a farm in Mexico? When you hide information from the market, you pervert the free market system. It only works if people have adequate information. “