We received so many comments about the Dole salad recall for Listeria monocytogenes that I thought I would write more about the illness and your risk of contracting it.
Any Dole prepackaged salad with a code starting with the letter “A” has been recalled.
Listeria is a dangerous pathogen, but there’s no need to panic. There have been thousands and thousands of those bags of salad sold, and, even using the multiplier for Listeria monocytogenes outbreak, only about 34 people have been sickened in the United States and Canada. Your odds of actually developing the illness are quite low.
Second, if you did purchase a bag that was recalled or ate some of the recalled salads, be aware of the symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by this bacteria. Symptoms include flu-like fever and muscle aches, upset stomach or diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, confusion, and convulsions. Awareness of the problem is your best defense.
Unfortunately, these symptoms are similar to many other illnesses, including the flu and illnesses caused by other bacteria and viruses. It’s best to contact your doctor and ask him or her about your symptoms if you do feel ill. Tell him you ate the recalled salads. If you are in a high risk group (the elderly, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses), take any illness more seriously.
Pregnant women should be more cautious about this outbreak. If these women do contract listeriosis, their symptoms may be very mild, but the consequences can be serious, including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and infection in the newborn baby. If you are pregnant and have eaten any of the recalled salads, call your obstetrician for advice about your particular case.
It can take up to 70 days for the symptoms of listeriosis to appear after you have been exposed. But the illness can also appear within two to three days. The average time of illness onset after exposure is two to three weeks. A blood test is the best way to determine if you have a Listeria monocytogenes infection. And these infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Third, if you used the salads in a cooked dish, that is considered a “kill step” and any bacteria, if present, will be destroyed, but you’re not out of the woods yet. While the dish you cooked is safe to eat, cross-contamination between the uncooked spinach or lettuce and utensils, plates, cutting boards, measuring boards, and other foods remains a concern.
Make sure that you wash those items well in a dishwasher, or use a mild bleach solution of one tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach and one gallon of water to clean them. And clean out your refrigerator with that bleach solution as well, since Listeria bacteria grow at refrigerator temperatures. Then wash your hands. And wash them again.
And if you are concerned, ask questions. We are here to help. If we can’t answer a question, we’ll direct you to someone who can answer it.