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The Gross Details Behind the FDA Cilantro Ban

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The Food and Drug Administration wants to make sure that extra kick in your guacamole is thanks to spices from the earth, not humans: The FDA is banning the import of fresh cilantro from certain parts of Mexico after they found human feces and toiler paper in the growing fields. (For your non-contaminated herbs, save your Leftover Cilantro with 10 Fun Uses for Extra Herbs.)

Experts have linked cilantro from Puebla, a city in south-central Mexico, with some of the outbreaks of stomach illnesses in the U.S. in 2013, which sickened 643 people in 25 states, as well as in 2014, which affected 278 people in Texas alone. Some health authorities suspect tainted cilantro is also responsible for more illnesses this year.

As part of the investigations into these country-wide illnesses, U.S. and Mexican health authorities investigated 11 farms and packing houses in Puebla and found “objectionable conditions” at eight of the farms. The FDA found that some of the farms had no running water or toilet facilities—hence the fields being used as outhouses.

Calm your taste buds down, though—it’s just a partial ban on the herb, as the FDA is allowing cilantro grown without the fertilizer of human feces to continue to be imported. This will, however, affect the availability of the herb during the shipment ban, which is from April through August over the next few years, until Puebla farms can show that conditions have improved.

Luckily, California also farms the pungent green for our enjoyment. And if you’re seriously worried about the state of your future guacs, grow the easy herb yourself! (Find Your Green Thumb! First-Time Gardening Tips.)

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