Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) released a statement last week demanding that Dole answer for continuing to distribute contaminated salads to store shelves for more than a year and a half after knowing a plant had a Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Dole’s Springfield, Ohio plant had Listeria contamination in 2012 and 2014 and had recalled product at that time because of the potential for illness. No illnesses were reported as a result of those recalled products.
But in January 2016, another recall of Dole salad products was issued. That recall was triggered by a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak that sickened at least 33 people in the United States and Canada. Four people died, although the three who died in Canada may not have been killed by the pathogenic bacteria.
Rep. DeLauro said in her statement, “news that Dole knew about a Listeria outbreak in their facility, yet continued to push contaminated salads onto the American consumer is an outrage. How could executives at Dole even consider putting products onto store shelves and into American homes when they knew for close to two years that there was a major public health issue?”
There is zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes contamination in ready-to-eat foods, such as bagged salads. These products have no “kill step” that could destroy the bacteria before they are consumed.
DeLauro continued, “These executive must be held accountable for their unconscionable actions. The American people deserve better and we must absolutely ensure that a situation like this one never happens again. The Dole facility in question has said that they have taken corrective action, but we need specific answers as to what those actions are. If Dole’s actions are not sufficient to ensure food safety, then this facility must be shut down.”
Rep. DeLauro also issued a statement earlier this year, questioning why it took the CDC and FDA so long to identify the source of the listeriosis outbreak linked to Dole. Dole first knew of Listeria present in their Springfield plant in July 2014 and found it at least five more times that year and three more times in 2015.
The symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning include flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those who are most susceptible to serious consequences from this illness, including Listeria meningitis, are pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems. This infection can be very serious. Of the 2,000 people sickened with this illness every year, up to 25% die. And most people who contract listeriosis are hospitalized. All of those sickened in the U.S. in this particular outbreak had to spend time in the hospital.