Coral Beach of the Packer reports that over 200 people in several midwestern states are sick with infections from rare cyclospora parasites that state and federal officials say are usually found in imported fresh produce.

Jim Gorny, vice president for food safety and technology for the Produce Marketing Association, said he doesn’t envy the investigators because “they are faced with a real conundrum.”  “I think it is a little premature to pass judgment,” Gorny said. “But I understand they are going on historical data from previous outbreaks.  “The facts will speak for themselves, but we just don’t have many of those yet.”  Gorny, who was senior advisor for the office at food safety at the Food and Drug Administration before joining PMA’s staff this summer, said FDA and the Centers for Disease control and Prevention have three tools during outbreak investigations: epidemiology, which involves asking patients what they ate; positive test samples from suspect sources, which no health officials have at this point; and traceback, which can’t happen until there is a suspected source.  He said it is rarely found in the U.S. because it prefers tropical and subtropical environments.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa’s health department medical director, and Dr. Joseph Acierno, Nebraska’s director of public health, both said they believe fresh vegetables, not fruit, is the source of the parasites, based on patient interviews.