Updated April 5, 2022 – The CDC released an outbreak investigation update on April 4, 2022, announcing an end to the deadly Listeria outbreak linked to Dole prepackaged salads. The Listeria outbreak sickened 18 people in 13 states with 16 hospitalizations and three deaths. Since the most recent update in early February, the case count increased by one patient in Ohio. The number of fatalities also increased from two to three.
At the time it was announced, on December 22, 2021, the Listeria outbreak linked to Dole salads was one of two ongoing fatal Listeria outbreaks linked to prepackaged salads, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The other outbreak was linked to salads produced by Fresh Express.
Salads produced by Dole and recalled in association with this outbreak were sold under the brand names Ahold, Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise, and Simply Nature.
Consumers who purchased prepackaged salad at that time were urged to check recall information carefully. Salads recalled for Listeria should not be eaten as the bacteria can cause serious illness and death. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.
Dole Issues Salad Recall in Connection with Listeria Outbreak
On December 22, 2021, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., of Monterey, CA issued a recall for all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Bessemer City, NC, and its Yuma, AZ production facilities due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Production at both of those facilities was temporarily halted while they were sanitized.
Dole salads produced at these facilities have product lot codes beginning with either the letter “N” or the letter “Y” in the upper right-hand corner of the package. The recalled salads include mixed greens, garden salads, Caesar kits, and others, packaged in bags or clamshells with “Best if Used By” dates between November 30, 2021, and January 8, 2022.
The recall was issued after Dole-branded Garden Salad produced in the Bessemer City facility and shredded iceberg lettuce produced in the Yuma, AZ facility tested positive for Listeria during random tests performed by state health officials in Georgia and Michigan. The strain found in these samples is a genetic match to 16 illnesses reported since 2014.
On January 7, 2022, Dole issued an expansion of the Listeria recall to include Dole-branded and private label packaged salads containing iceberg lettuce that was processed at its facilities in Soledad, CA, and Springfield, OH, where salads linked to a Listeria outbreak in 2016 were packaged.
Dole Salad Listeria Outbreak Includes 3 Fatalities
Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, muscle stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths even if the mother experiences only mild symptoms.
The 18 patients sickened in this outbreak, who range in age from 50 to 94 years, reported illnesses that began on dates ranging from August 16, 2014, to January 15, 2022. All but two of the illnesses were reported between September 2018 and October 2021. The CDC investigated this outbreak in 2019 and 2020 but wasn’t able to gather enough data to identify the source.
Outbreak Investigation Reignited
But several key developments this fall reignited the investigation. First, new illnesses caused by the outbreak strain began appearing, four of them were reported between August 2021 and October 2021. Then, the Georgia Department of Agriculture found Listeria in a Dole salad during routine product testing. On October 29, 2021, Dole issued a bagged salad Listeria recall for Dole, Kroger, Giant, and Marketside brand salads.
The strain collected from the sample was eventually submitted for genetic testing. In December 2021, it was confirmed as a match to the outbreak strain. Also in December, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found Listeria in another salad produced at a different Dole facility. Genetic tests showed it was also a match to the outbreak strain.
Outbreak Patients Ate Salads Before They Became Ill
Of 16 people with information available, 16 required hospitalization. Three deaths were reported, one from Ohio, one from Michigan, and one from Wisconsin.
Health officials interviewed 10 of the patients about their food histories. Nine of them reported eating packaged salads before they became ill. Three people remembered a specific brand, two mentioned Dole, and one mentioned Little Salad Bar.
The states reporting illnesses include Idaho (1), Iowa (2), Maryland (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (2), Nevada (1), North Carolina (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania, (1), Texas (2), Utah (1) and Wisconsin (1).
Previous Listeria Outbreak Linked to Dole Salads
In 2016, a Listeria outbreak linked to Dole packaged salads included 19 confirmed illnesses in the U.S. and one fatality. In Canada, 14 people were sickened and three of them died, although Canadian health officials had not determined if Listeria was the cause of those deaths. All 33 patients were hospitalized. One of them was a pregnant woman.
The salads linked to that outbreak were produced at Dole’s facility in Springfield, OH. FDA inspectors found Listeria at the plant year before the outbreak, as Food Poisoning Bulletin was first to report in March 2016 by obtaining records through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The documents show the company found Listeria in the plant in early 2014 and “infrequently” before that.
Records show Dole issued a Listeria recall for bagged salads in March 2014, October 2012, and June 2012. And a Salmonella recall for bagged salads was issued in April 2012. Salads produced at the Springfield plant were included in three of these recalls.
Experienced Listeria Lawyers
If you developed a Listeria infection after eating salad produced by Dole and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact our Listeria lawyers. Our Food Safety Team has more experience handling Listeria lawsuits than any other law firm in the country securing some of the largest Listeria settlements in U.S. history including a recent award of $6.4 million.
This post was originally published on December 22, 2021, and updated on February 2, 2022, to reflect an additional case.
This post was updated on April 4, 2022, to reflect that the CDC had declared an end to the outbreak and updated information about illness exposures, case totals and fatalities.