Emerging Infections

FDA Adds Pathogen to Routine Foodborne Illness Testing

Cyclospora has been added to the US Food and Drug Administration’s list of foodborne pathogens to routinely test for in appropriate commodities.


This addition comes as part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to monitor the presence of foodborne commodities in domestic and imported produce.  



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Cyclospora is a parasite that causes intestinal infection after an individual ingests food or water that was contaminated with human waste.


In summer 2018, for the first time, cyclospora was found in US-grown cilantro—fortunately, this was not linked with any illnesses.


However, the pathogen was also linked to 2 large outbreaks over the last few months—one in the Upper Midwest and one in the Midwest. Overall, 761 cases were reported in these regions, and the produce involved was quickly, voluntarily recalled by the distributors.


“The discovery of Cyclospora in both domestic and imported produce raise both old and new concerns,” said Scott Gottlieb, MD, FDA Commissioner.


“They underscore the importance of the FDA’s surveillance activities to better define risks, like investigating why different product types like vegetable trays are being linked to Cyclospora outbreaks, and how widespread Cyclospora may be in the United States.


“They also stress the need to broaden the tools, like import alerts, that we have up to this point used to prevent Cyclospora illnesses in the United States to also include actions that are more appropriate for addressing domestic contamination events.”


—Amanda Balbi



Statement from FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the FDA’s ongoing efforts to prevent foodborne outbreaks of cyclospora [press release]. Silver Spring, MD: US Food and Drug Administration; September 18, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2018.