A Texas woman has brought the first Cyclospora lawsuit against the Darden Corporation of Orlando, Florida, claiming the salad served at certain restaurant chains lead to food poisoning.
Darden owns the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains.
The woman said she contracted the severe gastrointestinal sickness in July and tested positive for the parasite. Nationwide, there are at least 378 confirmed cases of illness from cyclospora in 16 states since mid-June.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that cyclospora cases in Iowa and Nebraska have been traced back to a contaminated salad mix supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in those states, which are both owned by Darden Corporation.
According to health officials, cyclospora is a single-celled parasite that attacks the small intestine, triggering diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue.
Darden officials have apparently admitted that lettuce from that supplier was served at its restaurants in Iowa and Nebraska.
Darden released this statement in an email:
"Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we've received from this supplier. Iowa and Nebraska health authorities have said this is not an ongoing outbreak, and the product is no longer in the food supply in those states."
A Darden spokesman claims that the company has not been served with a copy of the Dallas woman's lawsuit. However, he did add this statement: "We do not use the supplier, Taylor Farms, in our restaurants in the state of Texas."
According to the woman's lawsuit, she dined at an Olive Garden restaurant in Addison, Texas on July 1 and a few short days later suffered from nausea, fatigue and diarrhea.
The lawsuit alleges that tests confirmed that her gastroenteritis was caused by cyclospora.
The Texas woman's lawsuit is being filed in Orlando, where Darden is based.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year an estimated 48 million people fall ill from a foodborne illness. Additionally, more than 125,000 people require hospitalization and 3,000 die after ingesting tainted fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and processed foods in their homes or in restaurants.
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