If, by any chance, you are a cilantro consumer looking for products from Puebla, you might have noticed that they were gone starting with Monday this week. That is because the FDA has banned fresh cilantro from the Mexican state as a result of a governmental investigation. According to the FDA:
“Conditions observed at multiple such firms in the state of Puebla included human feces and toilet paper found in growing fields and around facilities; inadequately maintained and supplied toilet and hand washing facilities (no soap, no toilet paper, no running water, no paper towels) or a complete lack of toilet and hand washing facilities.”
FDA also stated that “food-contact surfaces (such as plastic crates used to transport cilantro or tables where cilantro was cut and bundled) visibly dirty and not washed; and water used for purposes such as washing cilantro vulnerable to contamination from sewage/septic systems.”
This was not the first time cilantro plantations were pointed at for health and sanitary issues. Farms from the Mexican state are known to have caused numerous cyclospora epidemics throughout the U.S. The outbreaks are caused by a parasite known as Cyclospora cayetanensis which causes intestinal issues. The illness can be recognized due to its flu-like reactions: high temperature and intense coughing or sneezing.
The FDA ensures that the ban will remain active in the following years until farmers ensure product quality and safety. After having investigating 11 farms in Puebla, 8 of them have were deemed unfit of producing cilantro due to inadequate sanitary conditions.
But this does not seem to be only a “Mexican issue”. Evelyn Freeman and Jeannie Economos raise awareness about the same issues that occur in the U.S.
Mrs. Freeman is an assistant at the Farm Workers Association of Florida and she described her experience as a child when she was forced to go out in the field due to the circumstances. She also mentioned that even now, as she ministers to people who are working in the field all day, she still encounters the same complaints occasionally.
Mrs. Economos, who is in charge with pesticide safety and environmental health in Florida, also mentions that the general sanitary farm conditions are not at all as they should be. She stated that there are numerous complaints coming from pregnant women who do not have or cannot use facilities because of their inappropriate conditions.
Photo Credits fiskars.com