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Vegetable trays linked to outbreak

NEW YORK — More than 200 people have been infected by an intestinal parasite after reportedly eating vegetables from Fresh Del Monte Produce vegetable trays, federal authorities said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were 212 cases of the cyclosporiasis infection in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as of last Thursday.

Those infected reported eating from the prepackaged vegetable trays, which included broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip. Most of the trays were bought from Kwik Trip or Kwik Star convenience stores in those states, according to the CDC.

Del Monte and Kwik Trip could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.

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Outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the United States have been linked to imported fresh produce contaminated with a microscopic parasite. The infection first gained prominence in the United States during an outbreak in the mid-1990s, and has shown up nearly every year since, the CDC said.

The infection can cause a host of stomach-related illnesses, fever, and fatigue, and symptoms typically show up one week after the contaminated food was consumed. That means that the number of cases could continue to climb as more people start reporting their illnesses.

It is also one of the main reasons that cyclosporiasis is so difficult to understand, said Michael T. Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota and an international food-borne-disease expert.

“By the time cases are detected, the product is long gone,” he said. “It’s very hard to trace back.”

He said he suspected the number of cases was much higher than the 212 confirmed so far by health officials.

In 1996, more than 1,000 people were sickened by cyclospora parasites, catching health officials off guard and prompting them to step up food testing to try to trace the source of the outbreak.

Since then, cyclospora-related outbreaks have been linked to raspberries, basil, snow peas, sugar snap peas, cilantro, and cabbage. In 2013, more than 600 cases of cyclosporiasis in two dozen states were tied to a salad mix.

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