29 sick, 2 dead in Canada and US: Listeria in Dole packaged salads

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that three more ill people have been reported from Missouri (1) and Ohio (2), bringing the total to 18.

lettuce.skull.noroThe most recent illness was diagnosed on January 31, 2016.

Since September 2015, CDC has been collaborating with public health officials in several states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Public Health Agency of Canada to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis).

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

Eighteen people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from nine states since July 5, 2015, an increase of three cases since the last update on January 28.

All 18 people were hospitalized, including one person from Michigan who died as a result of listeriosis. One illness was reported in a pregnant woman.

Laboratory tests performed on clinical isolates from all 18 ill people showed that the isolates are highly related genetically.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are ill people in Canada infected with the same outbreak strain of Listeria.

Laboratory tests performed on clinical isolates from ill people in Canada showed that the isolates are highly related genetically to Listeria isolates from ill people in the United States.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and sold under various brand names are the likely source of this outbreak.

Although the investigation began in September 2015, the source of these illnesses wasn’t known until January 2016 when a laboratory result from a packaged salad collected in Ohio linked the illnesses to the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 27, 2016, Dole voluntarily recalled all salad mixes produced in the Springfield, Ohio processing facility.

No comment from Dole.

CDC: 11 ill and one death linked to Dole salads; products pulled

I spent the past couple of days in a room with some excellent fresh produce food safety colleagues making extension materials for industry folks; we talked a bit about Listeria monocytogenes and cut leafy greens.

Irony is ironic sometimes.Bagged-Salad-by-Justin-Sullivan-Getty-Images-300x200

The process of growing, harvesting, cutting, washing and packaging leafy greens can be problematic when it comes to Listeria monocytogenes. Sanitizers in wash water helps reduce cross-contamination. Once the pathogen is in the bag, there’s not much a consumer can do (other than cook it).

CDC says 12 cases of listeriosis, including a death, are linked to Dole products packaged in a Springfield, OH plant. Routine sampling and whole genome sequencing helped solve the mystery of the cluster (which had been investigated since September).

Twelve people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from six states since July 5, 2015. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), New Jersey (1), New York (4), and Pennsylvania (1). WGS has been performed on clinical isolates from all 12 ill people and has shown that the isolates are highly related genetically.

Listeria specimens were collected from July 5, 2015 to December 23, 2015. Ill people range in age from 3 years to 83, and the median age is 66. Sixty-nine percent of ill people are female. All 12 (100%) ill people reported being hospitalized, and one person from Michigan died as a result of listeriosis. One of the illnesses reported was in a pregnant woman.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and sold under various brand names are the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local health departments are interviewing ill people about the foods they may have eaten or other exposures in the month before their illness began. Of five ill people who were asked about packaged salad, all five (100%) reported eating a packaged salad. Two (100%) of two ill people who specified the brand of packaged salad eaten reported various varieties of Dole brand packaged salad.

As part of a routine product sampling program, the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad from a retail location and isolated Listeria. This packaged salad was produced at the Springfield, Ohio Dole processing facility. In January 2016, WGS showed that the Listeria isolate from the packaged salad was highly related genetically to isolates from ill people. This information linked the illnesses to Dole brand packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 21, 2016, Dole reported to CDC that it had stopped production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. The company also reported that it is withdrawing packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility. The withdrawal does not affect other Dole products.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

These packaged salads were sold under various brand names, including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. The packaged salads can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturing code found on the package.

The U.S. cases may be linked to the Canadian Lm outbreak, based on the product, distribution and timeline, but there’s not much info from officials to confirm the connection.

Dole’s recall notice can be found here.

If FedEx can track letters, can growers track lettuce?

Inside a Silicon Valley company’s windowless vault, massive servers silently monitor millions of heads of lettuce from the time they are plucked from the dirt to the moment the bagged salad is scanned at the grocery checkout counter.

That trail can be traced in seconds, thanks to tiny high-tech labels, software programs and hand-held hardware. Such tools make it easier for farmers to locate possible problems — a leaky fertilizer bin, an unexpected pathogen in the water, unwashed hands on a factory floor — and more quickly halt the spread of contaminated food.

The Los Angeles Times reports this Dole Food Co. project and similar efforts across the country represent a fundamental shift in the way that food is tracked from field to table. The change is slow but steady as a number of industry leaders and smaller players adopt these tools.

Much of the farming community has yet to follow suit, and federal food-safety legislation is stalled in Congress. But proponents of this digital transformation said it was inevitable given public outrage over the recent egg contamination scandal. They said technology could simplify the nation’s complex food-safety system, helping prevent or contain the harm caused by recalled food.

Trace-back systems are similar to how FedEx tracks its packages. On the farm, animals and crop sections are given a "smart" label with a unique identifying number. The label is attached to a bin, crate or container used for transport.

Workers then use a hand-held computer or smart phone to scan the labels and record key information, such as date, time, location, workplace temperature and which truck hauled the food. The information is usually uploaded to a database, where it is stored and can be accessed via the Web.

Each time the food moves or is handled by someone new, the data can be updated.

Canadian E. coli O157:H7 find prompts Dole to recall Hearts Delight salad in U.S.

Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling all salad bearing the label "Dole Hearts Delight" sold in the U.S. and Canada with a "best if used by (BIUB)" date of September 19, 2007, and a production code of "A24924A" or "A24924B" stamped on the package.  The "best if use by (BIUB)" code date can be located in the upper right hand corner of the front of the bag.  The salad was sold in plastic bags of 227 grams in Canada and one-half pound in the U.S., with UPC code 071430-01038.

To date, Dole has received no reports that anyone has become sick from eating these products.  The recall is occurring because a sample in a grocery store in Canada was found through random screening to contain E. coli O157:H7.  No other Dole salad products are involved.

This product was sold in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada and in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and neighboring states in the U.S.  Consumers can call the Dole Consumer Center toll-free at 800-356-3111. Consumers are reminded that products should not be consumed after the "best if used by" date.

Rene Cardinal, national manager of the fresh fruit and vegetable program at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, told the Ottawa Citizen,

Don’t play Russian roulette. If you have it in your home, destroy it," and that not all bags are necessarily contaminated, "but don’t take any chances."

Marty Ordman, a Dole spokesman, told the Associated Press that the romaine, green leaf and butter lettuce hearts that went into the blend were grown in California, Colorado and Ohio, then processed at Dole’s plant in Springfield, Ohio on Sept. 6.

California Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Food-borne Illness called on the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, to provide his office with details on the latest recall of leafy greens grown in the United States, and to inform the committee immediately whether or not the lettuce in question was grown in California and, if so, whether or not the grower was a signatory to the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement proposed by industry as a self-regulatory approach to food safety.

Dole lettuce from U.S. found with E. coli O157:H7 in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) warned the Canadian public at about 2 a.m. Monday not to consume Dole brand Hearts Delight lettuce salad (Ready to eat blend of romaine, green leaf & butter lettuce hearts) because it may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, stating,

"The affected product, Dole brand Hearts Delight lettuce salad (Ready to eat blend of romaine, green leaf & butter lettuce hearts), produce of USA, is sold in 227 g packages bearing UPC 0 71430 01038 9, BIUB (Best If Used By) date 07SE19 and lot code A24924B. This product may have been distributed nationally.

"There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product."

The quotes above are from the third version of the press release sent out since early Monday morning. And since CFIA always holds information close, iFSN called CFIA and was told the contaminated product was detected during routine CFIA surveillance at retail. CFIA could not tell us where the sampled product was purchased, or where the lettuces were grown.