RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Valley health officials are warning residents about a spike in foodborne illness.
A parasite found in fruits and vegetables has sent nearly 100 Hidalgo County residents to the hospital.
Cyclosporiasis is a parasite found in contaminated produce. Local 23 spoke with the owner of one of the largest produce distributors in Hidalgo County to find out why this outbreak is occurring.
“Most of the problem comes from agricultural workers who don’t follow FDA regulations,” says Victor Dominguez a produce market owner.
Victor Dominguez owns Dominguez Produce Market in Hidalgo. He says the problem with most illnesses caused by produce starts with bad practice of agricultural workers who do not follow FDA regulations.
“Bad practice in the field is what starts the whole process,” Dominguez continues.
Dominguez adds most distributors in Mexico repackage produce even after it falls on the floor. He advises those working with distributors on the other side of the border to be very cautious, claiming they use canal water to rinse their products.
150 people have been affected by this parasite in Texas. 70 of those cases come from Hidalgo County.
The county’s Health and Human Services Chief Administrative Officer, Eddie Olivarez tells us the parasite is found in contaminated water.
“Lettuce, cilantro, blackberry, raspberry, anything with a leafy plant to it. That’s where this parasite likes to live in. Not all produce has it, only those situations where they may have been exposed to contaminated water,” Says Eddie Olivarez.
Olivarez says consumers should not worry too much about packaged produce but should avoid flea and farmer’s markets where the parasite is more prone to be. He encourages those experiencing the following symptoms to immediately visit a doctor, “diarrhea, very explosive diarrhea, very strong stomach pains, vomiting, nausea, very much any type of stomach virus feeling. That’s what it is,” Says Olivarez.
Olivarez assures the illness cannot be spread from one person to another but does advise consumers to wash their hands after washing produce to avoid cross-contamination.
Doctors say it can take up to a week after being exposed for symptoms to show.