Do you love to eat nopales?
Do like to used nopales or cactus pads for cooking meatless dishes during lent?
Then you need to be cautious when using certain imported brands for consumption, California officials warn.
Last week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) warned people not to eat cactus pads, or nopales, imported from México sold at specific retail and wholesale locations around the state due to the presence of unapproved pesticides.
Of the six stores identified by the state that carried the contaminated nopales, three were located in the Central Valley, including the cities of Madera, Turlock and Sacramento.
Inspectors with DPR found various pesticides during a routine surveillance samples collected.
“Many Californians eat cactus as part of their diet, but the pesticide levels we have found at some specific locations are concerning,” said Brian Leahy, DPR director.
Pesticides included dimethoate, omethoate, monocrotophos and methidathion, at levels that pose a health risk to humans.
This pesticides - monocrotophos and methidathion - have been banned for food use in the United States for several years, according to DPR officials.
“Anyone feeling ill after consuming cactus products should consult their health care provider,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH director and State Health Officer.
Smith said “the symptoms of acute poisoning may include sweating, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, hypersalivation, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Consumption of monocrotophos can lead to neurotoxicity and permanent nerve damage.”
According to state officials, the contaminated cactus pads were sold to consumers and wholesale customers between Jan. 23-29.
Stores identified by the state included: Rancho San Miguel Markets, Madera; La Monarca Market, Lower Lake, FreshPoint Central California, Turlock; Arteaga’s Food Center, Sacramento; Stater Bros. Distribution Center, San Bernardino; and S&L Wholesale Produce, San Francisco.
DPR officials immediately removed the cactus pads it could locate from store shelves and distribution centers.
The items were quarantined or destroyed so that they do not pose a threat to consumers. However, DPR believes it is possible that some of the cactus pads may have been sold to other stores in California, Nevada and Oregon.
“We are not aware of any illnesses that have been reported to date, but we suggest that anyone who bought this product from these locations recently, return it to the place of purchase or dispose of it in the garbage,” Leahy said.
The tainted produce was packaged with the brand names “Mexpogroup Fresh Produce,” “Aramburo,” or “Los Tres Huastecos.”
Washing or peeling the cactus is not effective and people should not try to salvage any of this contaminated produce.
CDPH and CDPR have alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the issue
Consumers that observe the product being offered for sale are encouraged to report the activity to the CDPH toll free complaint line at (800) 495-3232.