The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) declared on March 17th that it had concluded its investigation into the outbreak of Listeria linked to prepackaged Dole salad and leafy greens produced in the company’s Springfield, Ohio facility. Exactly two weeks later, the agency’s US counterparts decided to do the same.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement on Thursday announcing the end of the outbreak and the agency’s investigation. The FDA primarily handled the product recalls associated with the Listeria-contaminated salads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) release stated that the outbreak “appeared to be over” and provided outbreak-specific information and statistics. “Any recalled salads still on the market or in consumers’ homes would be past their expiration dates,” the agency added
Springfield, Ohio Processing Facility Linked to Listeria Contaminated Salads
The Listeria outbreak spanned two countries and nine US states, and was ultimately linked to packaged salads processed at a Dole facility located in Springfield, Ohio.
Multiple agencies investigated the outbreak for four months before isolating the source. Although the first case linked to the outbreak occurred in May 2015 and the investigation into the outbreak began in September 2015, investigators did not identify the source of the outbreak until January 2016.
Although the investigation began as a collaborative effort between the CDC, FDA and public health officials from several states in September 2015, the first break in the case did not come until January 2016. The Ohio Department of Agriculture took an unopened, packaged salad from the Springfield facility as part of a routine product sampling program. Laboratory test results from the packaged salad linked the outbreak illnesses to the Springfield facility.
Dole ceased production of all packaged salads at its Springfield plant on January 21st and informed the CDC and FDA that it was withdrawing all salads that had originated at that facility. The company publicly announced the voluntary withdrawal the next day.
On January 27th, less than a week after the company announced the voluntary withdrawal, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. initiated a recall of all packaged salads produced at the Springfield, Ohio processing plant. Recalled salads were marketed under the brand names Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice Organics. The company’s recall encompassed 23 distinct types of salad blends that had been distributed throughout the United States and in Eastern Canada.
Outbreak Linked to 33 Listeria Infections, Including 4 Fatalities
By the outbreak’s end, 19 Americans and 14 Canadians had fallen ill with the outbreak strain of Listeria. All 33 people were hospitalized as a result of their illness. Three Canadians and one person from Michigan contracted fatal infections. Additionally, one pregnant woman contracted the disease.
The 19 US cases were spread across nine states. New York confirmed six cases of Listeria with the same DNA fingerprint as the outbreak strain. Michigan reported four cases, while each Ohio and Missouri confirmed two. Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania accounted for the remaining cases, each reporting one illness linked to the outbreak.
Dole distributed potentially contaminated types of salad that appeared on the recall list to a number of states that reported no cases linked to the outbreak. The following 14 states received contaminated salads without experiencing an illness: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a food recall warning for products made at the implicated facility and reported that recalled products had been shipped to six Canadian provinces including New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.
Outbreak cases were confirmed in five of the six named provinces: 9 cases in Ontario, two cases in Quebec, and one case in each of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.