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STATEMENT: Listeria outbreaks highlight ‘unacceptable’ food safety requirements

Packaged salads by Dole, Fresh Express are linked to more than two dozen illnesses and three deaths
For immediate release

PHILADELPHIA -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Wednesday the second of two listeria outbreak investigations linked to packaged salads this week. The second investigation, linked to Dole products, has led to 16 illnesses, 12 hospitalizations and two deaths across 13 states. The first outbreak, linked to Fresh Express products, is connected to 10 illnesses, 10 hospitalizations and one death across eight states.  Dole and Fresh Express have issued voluntary recalls of potentially contaminated packaged salads.

Dole recalled brands include: Ahold, Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise and Simply Nature. Fresh Express recalled brands include: Fresh Express, Bowl & Basket, Giant Eagle, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, O Organics, Signature Farms, Simply Nature, Weis Fresh from the Field and Wellsley Farms Organic.

According to the CDC, the listeria outbreak affecting Dole started in 2014 and the contamination found in Fresh Express packaged salads began in 2016. There have been 19 listeria-related recalls of produce since the start of 2021. 

In response, Isabel Brown, Consumer Watchdog associate with PIRG, issued the following statement:

“It’s sad to see that it took years for these outbreaks to be linked to a specific cause. We shouldn’t have to wait for an outbreak to cause this many illnesses and deaths to find out where it’s coming from. We need better ways to track and trace our food.

“Listeria is one of many food-borne illnesses that can come from feces-contaminated water that gets into crops. That’s just gross. Proposed revisions to the Food Safety Modernization Act aim to change agricultural water requirements to fix this, but those changes can’t come soon enough.

“The CDC estimates that every year, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases in this country. This is unacceptable. It doesn’t have to be this way.” 

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The CDC says people infected with Listeria generally suffer from headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches after eating contaminated food. Pregnant women usually experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches. However, Listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth. It can also cause serious illness or death in newborns.

For more information, contact Dole Consumer Response Center at 800-356-3111 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday or the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center at 800-242-5472 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

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