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Firm linked to tainted salad halts shipments from Mexico to US

Packages of Taylor Farms salads are offered for sale at a supermarket in Omaha, Neb. The FDA said it traced an outbreak of stomach illnesses from restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa to Taylor Farms de Mexico, the Mexican branch of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms.AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The Mexican unit of Taylor Farms, a food processor whose salad mix has been identified as at least one source of a widespread intestinal bug outbreak has halted shipments of all its salad products to the United States.

The action goes beyond the implicated salad mix to include iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, green cabbage and carrots, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on its website on Monday.

The bug, caused by a parasite known as Cyclospora, has sickened 535 people in 19 states. Investigations in Iowa and Nebraska traced the illness to a salad mix supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico to Olive Garden and Red Lobster, restaurant chains owned by Darden Restaurants Inc.

It is unclear whether the same salad mix is responsible for illnesses in other states.

The FDA said its investigation has not implicated consumer packages sold in grocery stores. The agency's most recent inspection of the Taylor Farms facilities, in 2011, showed no notable issues. The agency said it will conduct an assessment of the company's processing facility to try to identify the cause of the outbreak.

Iowa and Nebraska say they believe the contaminated salad is no longer in the food supply in those states. The last date that a person became ill with the bug in Iowa was on July 1 and in Nebraska on July 2. The typical shelf life for a salad mix is up to 14 days.

The FDA said it has dedicated a 21-person team to solving the outbreak and will augment the team as needed.

Cyclosporiasis is most common in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The infection is caused by ingesting food or water containing Cyclospora, a one-celled parasite that is too small to be detected without a microscope. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting and body aches.

Most people with healthy immune systems recover from the infection without treatment. Older people and those with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk for prolonged illness.

Taylor Farms describes itself on its website as a family-owned company headquartered in Salinas, California, and North America's largest supplier of processed fresh produce to the food service industry.