U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released the Cyclospora Prevention, Response and Research Action Plan as part of their ongoing efforts to combat foodborne illnesses, aligned with the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative.

Rising case numbers and the emergence of Cyclospora contamination in domestically grown produce impelled the FDA to create the Cyclospora Task Force in 2019.

The task force is comprised of multidisciplinary experts across the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the goal of reducing the public health burden of foodborne illness instigated by Cyclospora in produce.

The plan which is modeled after the agency’s Leafy Greens Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) Action Plan, focuses on improving prevention, reinforcing response activities and filling knowledge gaps in order to help prevent Cyclospora contamination of foods and to help prepare for responding to future outbreaks.

The FDA is working with industry to encourage the development of rapid test kits to specifically detect Cyclospora to better facilitate industry testing and root cause analysis activities.

In addition, they plan to collaborate to look for ways to more effectively control Cyclospora in the environment and on farms.

In the area of response, the plan is focused on expanding laboratory capacity across the FDA, state, foreign partners and academia to sample and test for Cyclospora, providing greater capacity to investigate during outbreak events.

The FDA is also developing a new investigational tool to help guide assessments of farms potentially implicated in a Cyclospora outbreak to determine potential sources and routes of contamination.

Given the emerging nature of Cyclospora contamination in domestic produce, a large number of action items in this plan are aimed at addressing knowledge gaps.

In this area, the FDA intends to work with CDC to better understand the case distribution of cyclosporiasis across the U.S. and to advance genotyping methods in clinical, food and environmental samples that will allow genetical linking of clinical cases to food products and environments identified by traceback during an outbreak.

 As part of this plan, the FDA also intends to work with industry and academia to better understand the prevalence of Cyclospora in agricultural water and to encourage data sharing to help stakeholders identify trends associated with Cyclospora contamination.

The action plan accentuates the importance of collaboration across industry, academia, state, federal and foreign government partners, and other stakeholders to reduce the risks and public health burden caused by foodborne Cyclospora.

The FDA will continue updating this plan as actions are completed and new actions are identified.

Cyclospora occurrence

Cyclosporiasis is a foodborne intestinal illness caused by Cyclospora cayetanensis. The most common symptoms of cyclosporiasis are diarrhea, weight loss, nausea and fatigue.

The illness historically associated with imported produce or travel outside the U.S, has in recent years been detected in domestically produced food.

The FDA first documented Cyclospora in domestically grown produce, cilantro in 2018 as part of an ongoing sampling assignment of fresh herbs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been roughly 6,000 domestically acquired cases of Cyclospora over the last three years with the number of reported cases typically rising during the spring and summer, usually in May, June and July.