This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a joint collaboration aimed at protecting consumers from Cyclospora cayetanensis, a parasite that has caused multistate outbreaks of foodborne illness in recent years. 

Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has experienced Cyclospora outbreaks linked to imported fresh produce--basil, cilantro, mesclun, raspberries, and snow peas. However, July 2018 was the first time that domestically grown produce (cilantro) has ever tested positive for the parasite.

FDA says the rising number of reported Cyclospora cayetanensis cases is partly due to better diagnostic and detection methods. Nearly 3,000 cyclosporiasis were reported in 2018 alone. Many more cases are believed to have gone unreported. 

FDA and CDC’s collaboration announcement aligns what usually is peak season for Cyclospora infections--May, June, and July. During this time, CDC conducts enhanced surveillance for cases of domestically acquired illness. FDA and CDC joined forces in advance to prepare for the potential need to rapidly address illnesses and prevent further cases. So far this year, 23 cases of domestically acquired cyclosporiasis have been reported to CDC in people who became ill since May 1, according to the CDC’s monthly update released June 27.

The agencies are working to identify data gaps and research needs so that improved tools can be developed to detect, prevent, and control Cyclospora contamination of food.

Together, the FDA and CDC are committed to protecting Americans from Cyclospora and other organisms that can make them sick. Both agencies will continue to use all the tools they have available, from new detection techniques to DNA fingerprinting tools to enforcement tools like import alerts, to prevent cyclosporiasis illnesses in the United States.

Read more about FDA and CDC’s joint effort

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