The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a food safety alert on Feb. 1, notifying consumers that it is "currently investigating two separate Listeria outbreaks linked to packaged salads." The two outbreaks have been linked to impacted products produced by Dole and Fresh Express.
Dole and Fresh Express both issued recall notices for the affected products in late December and early January, but the alert from the CDC is new, noting that Dole's recall is estimated to affect around 13 states as of right now, while Fresh Express' has potentially impacted eight different states.
The two manufacturers sell their packaged salads under multiple brands, some of which are sold at Walmart and Kroger. Dole and Fresh Market have sold their recalled products under the Marketside brand at Walmart. Dole's salads are also marketed under the Kroger store brand.
Dole recalled mixed greens, garden salads, Caesar kits, and many other types of salads found in bags or clamshells that have "Best if used by" dates from Nov. 30 through Jan. 9 and product codes that start with the letter B, N, W, or Y, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fresh Express' recalled products also include several different types of salad kits and bagged greens that have product codes Z324 through Z350, per the agency.
The CDC reports that the two Listeria outbreaks have resulted in multiple deaths: two deaths from the outbreak affecting Dole salads and one death from the outbreak affecting Fresh Express. Dole's packaged salads have reportedly caused 17 illnesses and 13 hospitalizations thus far, with 10 illness and 10 hospitalizations linked to the Fresh Express salads. The agency reports that around 1,600 people get infected with Listeria every year, with about 260 dying as a result.
According to the FDA, the easiest way to identify a recalled product from Dole Fresh Vegetables right now is to look at the lot code on the bag. The products subject to this voluntary recall have codes starting with an "N" or a "Y" on the upper right-hand corner, and have a "best if used by date" between Nov. 30, 2021 and Jan. 8, 2022. Consumers who find such products in their refrigerators are urged to discard them immediately. They were sold in the states Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
For a full list of the products impacted, you can check the list on the FDA's website here. The recalls apply specifically to products packaged in two Dole facilities – one in Bessemer City, North Carolina, and one in Uma, Arizona. Both facilities are being temporarily shut down to undergo thorough cleaning and inspection.
Listeria is an infection that can cause symptoms like high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. It can be fatal to the elderly, young children or people with compromised immune systems, and it can cause miscarriages or stillbirths among pregnant women. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control believe that the strain found in these Dole products was the same one that has caused 16 infections in the U.S. since 2016.
In the past, listeria outbreaks have often been traced back to dairy products – particularly soft cheeses. This is part of the reason pasteurization has been widely adopted, as it helps kill bacteria including listeria monocytogenes. The CDC advises people at high risk to avoid unpasteurized dairy for this reason.