Last week, Food Poisoning Bulletin reported that in the last four years Dole salads have been recalled for Listeria four times and recalled for Salmonella once. That was incorrect. Since 2012, there have been 10 recalls in the U.S. and Canada for possible Listeria or Salmonella contamination of salads produced by Dole, most of them for Listeria and most of them stemming from Dole’s plant in Springfield, Ohio.
In late January, the company opted to close the Springfield plant temporarily after salads produced there were linked to Listeria outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada. Four of the 26 people sickened have died, although Canadian health officials have not determined if the Listeria infections contributed to the cause of death in the three fatalities reported there.
The current recalls in U.S. and Canada include all products made at Dole’s Springfield facility. The letter “A” in the product code identifies Springfield as the facility where they were produced. In the U.S., the recalled salads were sold under the brand names Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. In Canada, they were sold under the Dole and PC Organics brand names.
Since April 2012, there have been five Listeria recalls for salads produced at Dole’s Springfield plant- six if you go back to June 2011, and two for Salmonella. (There were three other Listeria recalls for salads made at other Dole facilities.) All of these recalls were triggered by random product sample tests performed by various state health departments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the now defunct Microbiological Data Program (MDP) operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
These random tests, performed when employees from state health or agriculture departments go to grocery stores, buy a product and test it in a lab for bacteria, are the only testing performed by regulatory agencies on these products. The Springfield plant is inspected annually by the state agriculture department, but those inspections cover things like: Do employees wash hands? Is equipment being maintained properly? Are pest controls in place? They do not include microbial testing of products made there or testing of environmental swabs taken from the facility. Dole does its own environmental swabs, but is not required to share those results with the state, according to an agriculture department spokeswoman.
One of the deadliest foodborne pathogens, Listeria, which is found in the environment, thrives in cold, wet places. Once it sets up shop, it’s difficult to remove.
Food contaminated with Listeria doesn’t look or smell unusual. Once ingested, it typically takes about three weeks for symptoms including headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and fever, to develop, but it can take as long as 70 days. The long incubation period makes it challenging for health officials to track outbreaks in real time.
Health officials in both countries are using genetic “fingerprint” testing to identify case patients in this outbreak. So far, onset of illness dates range from May 2015 to January 2016 in Canada and July 2015 to January 2016 in the U.S.
Those at highest risk for developing listeriosis are young children, seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems underlying medical conditions. Among pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and infection in newborns. In the U.S., one of the case patients is a pregnant woman. In Canada, the average age of those sickened is 79.
Here is a timeline of key events leading up to these outbreaks:
June 22, 2011 Dole Italian Blend Salads and Fresh Selections (Kroger store brand) Italian Style Blend salads are recalled after a test performed during random product sampling by the he Ohio Department of Agriculture is positive for Listeria Recalled product, with codes have the letter “A” indicating Springfield or ”B” were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin) and three Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec).
April 14, 2012 Dole Seven Lettuces Salad is recalled after a test performed during random product sampling by the state of New York is positive for Listeria. Recalled products with codes containing the letter “A” or “B” were distributed in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
June 22, 2012 Fresh Selections (Kroger store brand) Green Supreme and Leafy Romaine and Marketside Leafy Romaine (Walmart store brand are recalled after tests performed by the MDP. The recalled products with codes have the letter “N” were distributed in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
June 29, 2012 Dole Hearts of Romaine are recalled after testing by the FDA finds Listeria . Recalled products with codes the letter “A” indicating Springfield or ”B” were distributed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia
August 22, 2012 Dole Italian Blend salads are recalled after Listeria is discovered during random product testing by the MDP. Recalled products with codes containing the letter N were distributed in Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi and Virginia
October 17, 2012 Dole issues American Blend salads after Tennessee officials find Listeria during random testing. Recalled products have codes containing the letter A (indicating Springfield) or B were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin
March 10, 2014 The Ohio department of Agriculture finds Salmonella on a bag of spinach purchased at a Kroger store. No recall is issued.
March 12, 2014 Dole Italian Bland salad is recalled in Canada after the CFIA finds Listeria during testing. Recalled products were distributed in New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec. Possibly nationally. Product codes indicating where the products were produced were not provided but two days later a U.S. recall that contains product codes “A’ or “B” is issued it mentions the same three provinces.
March 14, 2014 After CFIA finds Listeria in a sample test, Dole issues a recall for Dole Italian Blend, Fresh Selections Italian Style Blend (Kroger), Little Salad Bar Italian Salad, and Marketside (Walmart) Italian Style Salad. Recalled products have codes containing the letter A (indicating Springfield) or B. Recalled products were distributed in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and 3 Canadian provinces New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec.
August 2014 Dole signs a deal for a $9 million expansion of the Springfield plant. A major employer in Clark County, Ohio, Dole received a 50 percent nine-year job creation tax credit to expand the facility with the agreement to add 138 jobs over three years and maintain operations there for 12 years. The expansion added three new packaging lines and one processing line producing spinach, spring mix and baby lettuce packaged salads.
October 13, 2015 Dole issues a recall for spinach after random product sampling conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture finds Salmonella in bag tested. The recalled products have product codes containing the letter “A” indicating Springfield or “B” They were distributed in Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin.
January 20, 2016 The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announces that is investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in five provinces and suspects prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends and salad kits are the source. Sven people are sickened, one has died although it is not clear if the death was caused by the Listeria infection.
January 22, 2016 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) posts a recall for 48 kinds of Dole brand salads and nine kinds of PC Organics brand salads.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posts Dole’s announcement that it is “temporarily suspending operations at its Springfield, Ohio production facility, and is voluntarily withdrawing from the market all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at that location.”
The CDC announces that a Listeria outbreak linked to salads produced at Dole’s Springfield plant has sickened 12 people in six states one of whom has died.
January 23, 2016 PHAC says it is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and provincial public health partners to investigate a Listeria outbreak linked to Dole packaged salad products produced at Dole’s plant in Springfield, Ohio.
January 27, 2016PHAC announces the CFIA has confirmed a link between recalled packaged salad products and the outbreak of listeriosis in five provinces.
Dole announces that it is voluntarily recalling all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Springfield plant. The announcement says in part: “Our voluntary product recall is a result of a suspected link of the products to a listeria outbreak, but the exact source is still unknown. We are working closely with regulatory agencies as our Springfield plant undergoes additional investigation and testing. Voluntary recall is a specific term used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While our actions under a voluntary recall as compared to the previously reported voluntary withdrawal remain the same, we have updated our communication terminology to reference a ‘recall.’ We have done this with the aim of using terminology that may be more familiar to consumers.”
January 28, 2016 The CDC reports 15 people in eight states have been sickened.
February 2, 2016PHAC announces that using lab tests it has identified four additional cases previously reported in Ontario. Of the 11 people sickened, three have died, although Canadian health officials have not determined if the Listeria infections contributed to the cause of death.