Stomach Virus Tied to Olive Garden and Red Lobster, Lawsuits to Follow

The FDA announced this week that a Mexican salad mix served at Iowa and Nebraska Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters contained parasites that cause a severe stomach virus called cyclospora, giving bottomless salad bowls a whole new meaning.

Representatives for Darden, the parent company of both chain restaurants, say that the Taylor Farms de Mexico salad that caused the cyclospora outbreak has not been served for about a month. Taylor Farms salad is also sold to consumers at grocery stores, but the FDA said in a statement that none of those bagged salads have been implicated in the outbreaks.

Cyclospora infections have been reported in more than 16 states, sickening at least 400 people. In Iowa and Nebraska alone, at least 220 people reported cyclospora infections this summer. Investigators are unsure if the infections in other states are tied to Darden restaurants or Taylor Farms salads.

Darden representatives say they are confident that the tainted salad, which has a two-week shelf life, is now out of the food chain. The last reported case was on July 23.

As food investigators try to find the source of all the infections, lawsuits are being filed. Pritzker Olson, a national food safety firm, is preparing to file on behalf of Iowa and Nebraska patrons, and a woman is suing Darden after eating at a Texas Olive Garden and developing gastroenteritis caused by cyclospora. A spokesperson for Darden said that although the company has not yet been served with the suit, the Taylor Farms salad mix is not used in the Texas restaurants.

[via, image via AP]