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April 3, 2000
Toronto Public Health Calls For Ban on Fresh Guatemalan Blackberries and Raspberries
  
Toronto Public Health - Today Toronto Public Health and health units in, Peel
and Durham Regions are calling on Health Canada and the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency to ban the spring importation of fresh raspberries and
blackberries from Guatemala.

Over the past four years, hundreds of individuals in the Toronto area have
become ill from the parasite Cyclospora. Guatemalan raspberries or blackberries
have been implicated as the source of the outbreaks.

"We are asking the federal government to put the health of the public first and
immediately ban the spring importation of these fruits," says Dr. Barbara
Yaffe, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto.

The most common symptoms of Cyclosporiasis include watery diarrhea, abdominal
pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. If untreated, illness may persist for a few
days to a month or longer. Those with weakened immune systems are at greater
risk of complications from this parasite.

The federal government imposed a ban on the importation of fresh Guatemalan
raspberries from September 1998 to December 1999. The spring importation season
began March 15. Despite repeated calls for a continuation of the ban, Health
Canada has yet to assure Toronto Public Health that a full ban, without
exemptions, will continue.

If the ban does not continue, Toronto Public Health will notify the Ontario
Produce Marketing Association, of potential health risks associated with
Guatemalan blackberries and raspberries. Although it is prudent to wash fresh
fruit and vegetables well, this may not eliminate the risk of Cyclosporiasis.

Toronto Public Health is reporting on the 1999 Cyclosporiasis outbreak to the
Board of Health today at City Hall, Committee Room 1, 2 p.m. Cyclosporiasis is
the first agenda item.


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