Mexican Cilantro Fields Double as Toilets, FDA Bans Imports

Mexican Cilantro Fields Double as Toilets, FDA Bans Imports

If you’re having trouble tracking down fresh cilantro in your local supermarket, you may want to breathe a sigh of relief. The FDA has banned Mexican cilantro imports over serious health concerns.

“Some Mexican cilantro is being banned in the U.S. after health officials found human feces and toilet paper in growing fields from which herbs have been linked to hundreds of intestinal illnesses among Americans dating back to 2012,” reports BloombergBusiness.

Mexican-grown cilantro is being detained at the border until at least August, and any of the herb grown in Puebla, Mexico, must undergo inspections and provide certification, the agency says. “Cilantro from other parts of Mexico will need documentation to prove the product isn’t from Puebla, about a two-hour drive southeast of Mexico City,” according to Bloomberg.

The reason for such steep precaution comes as a result of outbreaks of cyclosporiasis that sickened at least 304 people last year. Cyclosporiasis is a parasite that can cause severe diarrhea and digestive health issues.

Since 2013, inspections revealed eight out of 11 cilantro farms in Mexico were found to have bathrooms with no soap, toilet paper or running water—and some farms, the authorities say, had no toilet facilities at all.

“Based on those joint investigations, FDA considers that the most likely routes of contamination of fresh cilantro are contact with the parasite shed from the intestinal tract of humans affecting the growing fields, harvesting, processing or packing activities or contamination with the parasite through contaminated irrigation water, contaminated crop protectant sprays, or contaminated wash waters,” the alert said.

Walmart and Kroger say they have already begun to pull Mexican cilantro off of store shelves. “In an abundance of caution, we decided to withdraw and prohibit sourcing any cilantro from this region,” a Walmart representative said in a statement. The company says it does typically sell Mexican cilantro, but that it’s “not necessarily” from the region of concern.

Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., says its cilantro comes from California, so customers shouldn’t expect to see it missing from any of the chain’s menu items.

In 2011, a USDA report found that numerous fresh cilantro samples contained high levels of unapproved pesticides.

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Cilantro image via Shutterstock