More than 160 people have fallen ill from a parasite outbreak after eating salad at McDonald’s restaurants, causing the fast food chain to pull the healthier option from its stores.
The illnesses began around May 1, where cases of cyclospora began being reported across the US.
In less than a week, the number rose from 61 to 163 across 10 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The ages of those so far affected in the outbreak range from 16 to 87 years old, the health agency said.
Three patients required hospital treatment, however no deaths have been reported.
The illness is transmitted by the cyclospora parasite through food or water likely contaminated with faeces.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC reported 163 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in people across the US, who reportedly consumed salad products from several McDonald’s locations.
“FDA has not identified which of the ingredients used in the salads is the vehicle for this outbreak; multiple components of these salads are under consideration,” it said in an online statement.
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“The investigation is ongoing and the FDA is currently reviewing distribution and supplier information.”
On July 13, McDonald’s said it had identified the lettuce blend that was found to be contaminated, and removed it from about 3,000 restaurants and distribution centres primarily in the Midwest.
In light of the outbreak, the takeaway giant voluntarily removed the salads from sale “as a precaution”.
“The health and safety of our customers and the people who work in McDonald’s restaurants is always our top priority,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
“The additional states identified by the FDA and CDC are among the same states where a week ago we proactively decided to remove our lettuce blend in impacted restaurants and replace it through a different supplier.”
The company said it’s “committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality and we continue to cooperate and support regulatory and public health officials in their investigations”.
The symptoms of cyclospora, which infects the small intestine (bowel), can begin a week or more after consuming the parasite.
The affected person can experience diarrhoea, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, according to the CDC, and the illness can last from a few days to a few months.