UPDATE: Tainted greens went to Red Lobster, Olive Garden restaur - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Tainted greens went to Red Lobster, Olive Garden restaurants

Courtesy: Iowa Department of Public Health\Cyclospora Courtesy: Iowa Department of Public Health\Cyclospora

Taylor Farms of Mexico, a division of a California-based produce supplier whose greens go to national restaurants including Red Lobster and Olive Garden, shipped parasite-tainted salad mix that has sickened hundreds in Nebraska and Iowa, U.S. health officials said Friday. 

Food and Drug Administration officials did not say whether the same bagged salad is tied to a cyclospora outbreak or outbreaks that have sickened at least 400 people in 16 U.S. states. 

"The FDA traceback investigation found that illness clusters at four restaurant(s) were traced to a common supplier, Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V.," the FDA said in a statement. 

Those restaurants included Olive Garden and Red Lobster, operated by Darden restaurants, a spokesman for the Orlando, Fla., firm confirmed. 

"The FDA's announcement today regarding Iowa and Nebraska is new information," said Rich Jeffers, communications director for Darden. "Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we've received from this supplier."

FDA's investigation did not implicate salad mix packages sold in grocery stores, officials said. As a result of the probe, the agency will step up surveillance of leafy products exported to the U.S. from Mexico. 

The Mexican plant is part of Taylor Farms, a Salinas, Calif.-based firm that supplies lettuce and cut vegetables to national restaurant chains and grocery stores. Taylor Farms has 11 processing plants in the U.S. and one in San Miguel, Mexico, according to the company website. 

FDA officials, in conjunction with company leaders, will conduct an environmental assessment of the processing facility in Mexico to determine the probable cause of the outbreak. State officials had said the salad mix included romaine and iceberg lettuce, along with carrots and red cabbage. A 2011 inspection found no "notable issues," the FDA said. 

The contaminated salad mix is likely no longer in the food supply chain in Iowa and Nebraska, where at least 223 people have sickened, health officials said. The last date people reportedly became ill in those states was July 2, they added. The typical shelf life for salad mix is about two weeks. 

"Iowa and Nebraska health authorities have said this is not an ongoing outbreak and is no longer in the food supply in those states," said Jeffers, of Darden. "The health and safety of our guests is our top priority and it is completely safe to eat in our restaurants."

Taylor Farms has a history of recalling potentially contaminated leafy greens, including a February 2013 recall of baby spinach over fears it was tainted with Enterohemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC, a particularly virulent bacterium that can cause severe infection and illness. The firm recalled bagged hearts of romaine in 2012 for listeria risk and bagged salad in 2011 over worries about salmonella contamination.

Company officials did not return calls from NBC News.


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