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FDA recalls Fresh Express brand bagged salads sold at Aldi and others

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A bag of Fresh Express salad that is part of the FDA recall.

Some Fresh Express bags of salad should be thrown out because they could be infected with a harmful, single-celled parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis, federal food safety officials said this week. The salads were sold at Aldi and other major food retailers under the Fresh Express name, or labeled as Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, Walmart Marketside or Jewel-Osco Signature Farms. 

Fresh Express recalled the salads in June. Officials with the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now investigating what caused the infections at Fresh Express' Illinois plant. More than 640 people from 11 states have contracted cyclosporiasis, the intestinal illness caused by Cyclospora.

"There are typically multiple clusters of Cyclospora infections that occur each summer," CDC officials said in a statement. "The CDC is working with the FDA to determine if other recent cases of Cyclospora infection are linked to contaminated ingredients in these bagged salad mixes."

Cyclospora is a parasite that attacks the intestines and causes diarrhea, appetite loss, fatigue and cramping. Nearly 40 people have been hospitalized, the CDC said, but there are no reported deaths. 

The tainted salad bags have the letter Z at the beginning of their product code followed by the number 178 or lower. Fresh Express has released a recall list

Consumers began reporting illnesses May 11, the FDA said. Federal officials said they're focusing the investigation on the bagged salad's iceberg lettuce, carrots and red cabbage.

The bags were shipped and sold nationwide and in Canada. Canadian food safety officials are investigating possible infection to residents in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland. 

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Fresh Express salad was also linked to a possible cyclosporiasis outbreak in August 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said beef, pork and poultry inside salads and wraps may have been infected. The products were shipped to, and sold at, Kroger, Trader Joe's and Walgreens.

The bagged-salad recall comes as the FDA is also announcing an expanded list of hand sanitizers that were recalled for possibly containing a toxic chemical. Almost 90 store-bought hand sanitizers have tested positive for methanol, also known as wood alcohol, the FDA warned consumers. 

Food recall notices from the USDA and FDA are par for the course, although grocery stores themselves could be doing more to warn customers, a consumer advocacy group said. U.S. Public Interest Research Group said in February that grocery stores do a poor job at telling consumers about food recalls.  

"They don't say, 'Don't eat your lettuce,' they say, 'We're out,' rather than it might have E.coli," PIRG's Adam Garber told CBS MoneyWatch at the time. "If they have a sign saying, 'We're out of this right now, but we hope to have it back in stock soon,' it doesn't tell you that something in your home might be dangerous."

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