According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four people from Michigan have been sickened in the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Dole prepackaged salads.
A Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad was collected in Ohio in mid-January 2016 and tested positive for a Listeria isolate that was “highly related genetically” to isolates taken from ill patients. The salad was produced at the Springfield, Ohio Dole processing facility. Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that packaged salads produced at the Dole facility are the likely source of this outbreak. Dole has stopped production at that facility and has withdrawn all salads produced at that facility from the market.
Illnesses in this particular outbreak go back to July 5, 2015. All of the 12 people sickened in the outbreak so far have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe. One illnesses was reported in a pregnant woman.
Listeria outbreaks can go on for a very long time and may not be discovered or announced for months. Since listeriosis is a reportable disease, samples from patients are sent to PulseNet, which records the DNA of the bacteria responsible for the illnesses. When someone looks for a match, outbreaks are uncovered. This happened in the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream last year.
Food poisoning outbreaks linked to produce, and especially prepackaged salads and salad greens are, unfortunately, quite common. For instance, a 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak sickened 199 people and was linked to pre-packaged spinach greens. A 2012 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to prepackaged leafy greens produced by State Garden of Massachusetts sickened 33 people. And recalls are common too. In 2015, Taylor Farms recalled prepackaged spinach that was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria served at schools in Pennsylvania. And raw sprouts have been recalled many times for Listeria contamination.
Noted food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said “the problem is that salad greens that may harbor Listeria, E. coli, or other pathogens don’t undergo a “kill step”. It is not possible to wash away or chemically inactive all pathogens from leafy greens. Thus, a processor has to actively seek out and destroy Listeria colonies in processing environments in order to prevent food contamination.” There is zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes content on ready-to-eat foods since the bacteria are so pervasive and the illness it causes can be so severe.
The symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by this bacteria, include flu-like fever and muscle aches, upset stomach or diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, confusion, or convulsions. Symptoms usually appear within a few days or a few weeks after exposure to the bacteria, but sometimes symptoms don’t appear for two months.
Pregnant women are especially at risk for serious complications from this type of infection. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, or a serious infection in the newborn baby, even though the pregnant woman only has a mild, flu-like illness.
If you ate any Dole prepackaged salads with codes starting with the letter “A”, monitor yourself for any illness. If you do feel sick, see your doctor and tell her you ate this product.