The real reason McDonald's is pulling salads from 3,000 restaurants

Anyone hungry for a fast food salad in the Midwest will have to look beyond the Golden Arches, at least for the time being. McDonald's has temporarily removed salads from the menus of more than 3,000 restaurants in 14 states as a precaution after a multi-state outbreak of cyclospora that may be linked to the salads. Cyclospora is a microscopic parasite that often causes gastrointestinal distress. According to the FDA, it can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, stomach pain and bloating, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms. Symptoms may go away and then return, and if left untreated, may last anywhere from days to over a month. It's contracted after consuming food or water that has been tainted with feces that contains the parasite, and is not directly contagious from person to person. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 61 lab-confirmed cases of cyclospora as of July 13, 2018, in people who ate the salads. Two people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been linked to this outbreak. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, that state alone has reported more than 90 cases since mid-May — although only about 25 percent of those infected reported eating McDonald's salads. The second hardest hit state is Iowa, with 15 confirmed cases linked to the salads. Cases related to McDonald's salads were also reported in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

In an effort to contain the outbreak, salads have also been pulled from some locations in seven other states that have not been affected by the outbreak, but that use the same supplier. Those additional states include Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

While the FDA has yet to identify which ingredients in the salads may have led to the outbreak, they do say they're working with McDonald's to figure it out as quickly as possible. According to the notice posted on their website, "Multiple components of these salads are under consideration. The investigation is ongoing and the FDA is currently reviewing distribution and supplier information."

McDonald's made the decision on their own to pull the salads from affected restaurants. Their statement said, in part, "Out of an abundance of caution, we voluntarily stopped selling salads at impacted restaurants until we can switch to another lettuce blend supplier." They added, "McDonald's is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality control. We are closely monitoring this situation and cooperating with state and federal public health authorities as they further investigate."

According to CDC, anyone who has eaten a McDonald's salad in one of the affected states since Mid-May and then developed diarrhea should contact their doctor to be tested for cyclospora. Because of their voluntary recall of all foods believed to be related to the outbreak, the CDC says there is no likely no risk to anyone eating at the affected locations. 

The FDA and CDC are also investigating a large outbreak of cyclospora related to DelMonte vegetable trays. So far, 227 cases have been confirmed in that outbreak, but officials do not think the two outbreaks are related.