May 2, 2016 — In the wake of a deadly food poisoning outbreak, the Justice Department is investigating reports that Dole knew about Listeria contamination in a salad processing facility for two years before issuing a recall.
The investigation opened soon after Food Safety News published inspection reports obtained from the FDA through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The reports show that a Dole salad processing facility in Springfield, Ohio had 9 positive Listeria tests since July 2014. Four positive tests occurred in September 2014 and more occurred in 2015. Dole did not inform the FDA or issue any recalls until January 2016.
In the meantime, 33 people were infected with the same strain of Listeria, including 18 people in the United States and 11 in Canada. All of the victims were hospitalized and four died. In March, a lawsuit was filed by the daughter of a 77 year-old woman who was comatose for a month after eating a salad.
Health officials were looking for the source of the outbreak, but it was not until late last year that health officials in Ohio randomly sampled a bag of Dole salad purchased at a grocery store. It tested positive for the same strain of Listeria in the outbreak.
When the FDA inspected the Springfield facility, they found Listeria in a sample of Caesar salad kit, numerous lettuce samples, and multiple food contact surfaces. On January 16, the FDA issued a warning to Dole for failing to identify sanitation failures.
On January 27, Dole recalled all prepackaged salads and shut down the Springfield facility. It opened three months later. A spokesman for Dole told the New York Times that the issues identified by the FDA have been corrected.
Food manufacturers are required to tell the FDA when they discover that their food has a “reasonable probability” of causing illness. In many cases, manufacturers voluntarily issue precautionary recalls to avoid even a remote possibility of making someone sick.
In other cases, manufacturers ignore reports and continue selling contaminated products. It is very difficult for health officials to track down the source of food poisoning outbreaks, which means many outbreaks are never pinned on a specific food.
The other problem is that even when a product tests positive for Listeria, manufacturers do not have to check whether it is a disease-causing strain. There are 7 strains of Listeria, and not all of them cause illness.
However, the ones that do can make you very sick. Older adults, young children, and people with pre-existing medical conditions are often the hardest-hit. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.
Do I have a Food Poisoning Lawsuit?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting Dole salad induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with Listeria, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Food Poisoning Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
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