Taylor Farms of Mexico, which is a division of a California-based produce supplier, shipped parasite-tainted salad mix that has caused hundreds of people to become sick, United States health officials said Friday. "The FDA traceback investigation found that illness clusters at restaurants were traced to a common supplier, Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V.," the FDA said in a statement.
Their salads go to national restaurants including Red Lobster and Olive Garden, operated by Darden restaurants, a spokesman for the Orlando, Florida firm confirmed. "The FDA's announcement today regarding Iowa and Nebraska is new information," said Rich Jeffers, communications director for Darden. "Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we've received from this supplier."
The FDA's investigation did not include salad mix packages that are sold in grocery stores, officials said. As a result of the investigation, the agency will increase surveillance of and leafy products that are exported to the United States from Mexico.
The Mexican plant is a part of Taylor Farms, a Salinas, California-based firm that are suppliers of lettuce and cut vegetables to national restaurant chains and grocery stores. According to the company website, there are eleven processing plants of Taylor Farms in the United States and one in San Miguel, Mexico.
FDA officials, will be conducting an environmental assessment of the facility in Mexico to determine what caused the outbreak. State officials had said that the salad mix that was contaminated included romaine and iceberg lettuce, along with carrots and red cabbage. The FDA conducted an inspection in 2011 and reported no "notable issues". "All our tests have been negative and we have no indication of the parasite in our product," said the firm's chairman and chief executive, Bruce Taylor.
"Iowa and Nebraska health authorities have said this is not an ongoing outbreak and is no longer in the food supply in those states," said Jeffers, of Darden. "The health and safety of our guests is our top priority and it is completely safe to eat in our restaurants." July 2 was the last date that people reported becoming ill in those states. The normal shelf life for the salad mix is approximately two weeks.