Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co., two of the biggest sellers of groceries in the U.S., are pulling some cilantro from stores after human feces and toilet paper were found in Mexican growing fields.
Wal-Mart is removing cilantro that came from the Mexican state of Puebla, where the problems were uncovered by U.S. regulators. The product came from a single supplier and the chain doesn’t expect any shortages, spokesman Aaron Mullins said. Kroger, meanwhile, is recalling cilantro in about 440 stores, mostly in the southeastern U.S., and expects to quickly restock shelves with product from other regions.
“We’re not concerned about a shortage,” said Keith Dailey, a spokesman for Cincinnati-based Kroger. “More local growing areas are starting harvest for cilantro. We can quickly restock those stores.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised the concerns earlier this week, saying it would detain Mexican cilantro at the border from April to August. The agency won’t allow products from Puebla into the country without inspections and certification, according to the import ban. Cilantro from other parts of Mexico will need documentation to prove the product isn’t from Puebla, about a two-hour drive southeast of Mexico City. The agency has linked cilantro from the region to hundreds of cases of cyclosporiasis, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Wal-Mart is aware of the outbreak but doesn’t think any of its product was affected, Mullins said.
“In an abundance of caution, we decided to withdraw and prohibit sourcing any cilantro from this region,” he said
It’s not clear how many other supermarket and restaurant chains may have the cilantro in stock. Michael Silverman, a spokesman for Whole Foods Market Inc., said his company wasn’t affected by the FDA action. Safeway Inc. didn’t respond to requests for comment. Both Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell said they don’t expect an impact from the partial ban.
Cilantro from Puebla has been linked to outbreaks of cyclosporiasis since 2012, according to the FDA’s alert. Last year, at least 304 people in the U.S. came down with the parasitic illness, which can cause diarrhea and explosive bowel movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2013, the FDA and Mexican authorities have inspected 11 farms and packing houses that produce cilantro from Puebla.
At eight, health officials found bathrooms without soap, toilet paper or running water, in addition to the human feces and toilet paper in cilantro fields. Some had a complete lack of toilet facilities.