No one is exactly sure what's behind the outbreak of a sickness that causes stomach cramps and vomiting, but warnings that it could be strawberries have been enough to cause some people to forgo the shortcake.
"Once people are warned to avoid your product, it's awful hard to tell them it's OK," David Riggs, the head of the California Strawberry Commission, said Friday.Initially, California strawberries were named as a possible culprit in the cyclospora outbreak. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, based on initial evidence, that raspberries might also be to blame.
Strawberry sales at Bread & Circus Whole Food Markets dropped by more than half last week in the company's eight Boston-area stores before beginning to rebound, produce buyer Kevin Higgins said.
Stuart Hall, a produce broker in Chelsea, said sales of California strawberries in New England have been drastically affected, and he said a four-page bulletin sent out by California producers with scientific opinions clearing their berries didn't help.
"As far as the Boston market was concerned, everybody stopped buying California strawberries," Hall said.
Officials have identified 78 cases of the illness in Texas, 71 in Florida, 43 in New York, 28 in Massachusetts and Ohio, 10 in South Caro-lina and eight in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
On Friday, New Jersey health officials reported that the number of cyclospora cases had risen from 33 last Friday to 93.
But concern about the outbreak is not universal.
At the Star Market in Boston's Prudential Center, shopper Lucy Mui said, "I ate them last week, why would I be scared this week?"