California officials are warning consumers to stay away from imported cactus pads from Mexico sold at specific stores because they may have been treated with unapproved pesticides.
The state has identified six stores that carried the cactus, including one in Madera.
Inspectors with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation found several pesticides, including dimethoate, omethoate, monocrotophos and methidathion, at levels that pose a health risk to humans. The chemicals, monocrotophos and methidathion have been banned for food use in the United States for several years, DPR officials said.
“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. “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.”
State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said that the symptoms of acute poisoning may include sweating, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Consumption of monocrotophos can lead to neurotoxicity and permanent nerve damage.
The cactus pads were sold to consumers and wholesale customers between Jan. 23 and Jan. 29.
The stores with the contaminated cactus pads include: 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.
The tainted produce was packaged with the brand names “Mexpogroup Fresh Produce” or “Aramburo” or “Los Tres Huastecos”.
Washing or peeling the cactus prior to eating is not effective and people should not try to salvage any of this contaminated produce.