Lethal Listeria Outbreak: 3 more ill as Dole Lettuce Outbreak Spreads to Ohio

The outbreak of a potentially lethal illness with a 100% hospitalization rate  would usually command  the attention of the public at large. This time, it isn’t.

The lack of awareness in light of the ongoing outbreak can easily be attributed to a number of factors including length of the outbreak, which has been ongoing since May 2015; the low number of confirmed cases -18, according the the CDC – geographically distributed among the 9 states with confirmed outbreak cases; and until very recently, the lack of a confirmed outbreak source.

The CDC has confirmed Listerosis cases linked to the outbreak in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan (4 cases confirmed), Missouri (2 cases confirmed), New Jersey, New York (5 cases confirmed), Ohio (2 cases confirmed) and Pennsylvania. One case occurred in a pregnant woman, one of the risk groups for Listeriosis. All confirmed cases required hospitalization. Unfortunately, the one case of Listeriosis confirmed in Michigan resulted in death.

The median age of the outbreak victims is 64, though individuals ranged in age from 3 to 83 years old. Approximately three-fourths of the cases were women. Three of the cases were first confirmed by the CDC this past Thursday evening, when the agency issued its latest Outbreak Update. Two of the three new cases were reported in Ohio; the third case was reported in Missouri.

Narrowing it Down: Source Detection

Despite the fact that the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes was first seen in a July 2015 case, and an investigation in the outbreak didn’t begin until September 2015, officials continued to attempt to isolate the source of the bacteria. Contemporaneously with the US Listeriosis cases, Canada was dealing with a Listeria outbreak of its own. The strains of Listeria in the two outbreaks were ultimately compared and matched, meaning that the two separate outbreaks were, in reality, one larger outbreak; however, investigations by the respective health officials continued separately.

It was 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.

Eight months after the first case of Listeriosis was diagnosed, the source of the illnesses still wasn’t known. The break in the case came in January 2016, whem laboratory tests of a packaged salad collected in Ohio as part of a random testing program linked the illnesses to a Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

Following the evidence of the source, Dole informed the CDC that it had stopped production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and was withdrawing packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility. The withdrawal does not affect other Dole products. A product code beginning with the letter “A” in the upper right-hand corner of the package identifies products that are subject to the voluntary. No additional Dole facilities or products are thought to be affected by the outbreak.

The Dole Recall

On January 28, 2016, presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a packaged salad produced at Dole’s Springfield, Ohio, facility was confirmed in the FDA’s final testing results. Dole, however, had not waited on the final test results to take action.

On January 21, 2016, the FDA and CDC received notification from Dole that the company that it ceased production of all packaged salads at its Springfield, Ohio facility, and was withdrawing all packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility. Six days later, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. announced that it was recalling all packaged salads produced in its Springfield, Ohio, facility.

These packaged salads were sold under the following brand names: Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President’s Choice Organics.

Initial distribution of the salads was made to the following states; however, secondary distribution of some of the products may have occurred, and customers should check any Dole salad products they intend to buy or eat regardless of whether they were purchased in one of the following states: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.

In Canada the link between salads made at the Dole plant in Springfield, Ohio, and a listeriosis outbreak in that country was announced by the Public Health Agency. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall warning covering products from that plant. Recalled products had been shipped to the following Canadian provinces prior to the recall: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

For information about the Dole Listeria outbreak and product recall or any other food poisoning outbreaks, call the lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates 1-888-335-4901  – the experience of a hemolytic uremic syndrome lawyer.