A lawsuit has been filed against Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. on behalf of an Ohio woman who is in a coma stemming from a Listeria infection she developed after eating a prepackaged salad that she purchased from a grocery store. Prepackaged salads produced at Dole’s plant in Springfield, Ohio and sold under Dole and other brand names have been linked to an ongoing Listeria outbreak that has sickened 18 people, one of whom has died, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Al 18 people included in the outbreak have been hospitalized. “While, Listeria is the most virulent foodborne pathogens, this outbreak may be particularly frightening. So far, it has a 100% hospitalization rate,” said Elliot Olsen, a Listeria lawyer with the food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen.
Listeria can cause serious illness including meningitis, septicemia, pneumonia, hydrocephalus, encephalitis, seizure, stroke, coma, blindness, brain stem damage, cranial nerve palsies and cervical cord compression. Among pregnant women it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and infection of newborns. In addition to pregnant women, those most at risk are young children, seniors and people who have compromised immune systems.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection, which can take up to 70 days after exposure to develop, include stiff neck, headache, muscle soreness and flu-like symptoms that are sometimes preceded by nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Health officials used DNA “fingerprinting” to identify cases included in this outbreak. The first illness was reported July 15, 1015, the most recent illness reported was on January 31, 2016.
Laboratory tests and epidemiologic evidence indicate that bagged salads produced at Dole’s Springfield plant are the likely source of this outbreak, according to the CDC. On January 22, Dole announced it was “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.” On January 27, Dole announced it was recalling all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Springfield plant.
The recalled salads were sold under the following names: Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. The recalled salads had a manufacturing code that began with the letter “A.”
Stores that sold the recalled salads include: Giant, Kroger, ALDI, Price Chopper, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Schnucks, Meijer, ShopRite, Stop n Shop, Food 4 Less, Jay C, FoodsCo, PriceRite and others. The salads were removed from store shelves in late January, but because of Listeria’s long incubation period, consumers who ate recalled salads need to monitor themselves for Listeria symptoms until the beginning of April.
So far, the cases reported by state are as follows: Connecticut (1), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), Missouri (2), New Jersey (1), New York (5), Ohio (2), and Pennsylvania (1). The fatality was reported in Michigan.
The salads have also been linked to an ongoing outbreak in Canada that has sickened 11 people, three of whom have died. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of the three deaths.