Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. has resumed production at a salad facility that was linked to a deadly nine-month Listeria outbreak without revealing what was done to clean the plant or to prevent future contamination of food processed there. A statement on Dole’s website says investigations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been completed, but neither agency has reported the investigations have concluded. Tuesday a spokesman for Dole declined to provide details on what cleaning or sanitizing procedures were conducted at the Springfield, OH, facility. He said Dole did not have any comments, other than the posted statement. That statement, in its entirety, says: “Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. announced that the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have completed their investigations of the Springfield, Ohio plant. “After fully coordinating with these regulators, limited production has restarted and will expand in the coming weeks. “ ‘We’re grateful for the support of all our employees and the town of Springfield,’ said Howard Roeder, president of Dole Fresh Vegetables. ‘Their commitment has been, and will always be, the cornerstone of the Dole Fresh Vegetables organization.’ “Dole Fresh Vegetables will provide further updates as the plant resumes normal operations.” Outbreak detection and investigation The CDC reported on March 31 that the outbreak “appears to be over,” but that update did not indicate that the CDC’s investigation was concluded. A spokesman at FDA cited agency policy prohibiting the discussion of open investigations, but did confirm that the FDA had not closed its investigation into the Dole facility and outbreak. The CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed with laboratory tests that the outbreak sickened at least 33 people — 19 in the U.S. and 14 in Canada. One person in the U.S. died. Three in Canada died. Public health officials in the U.S. were able to interview 14 of the 19 confirmed outbreak victims. All but one of those 14 victims reported eating bagged salad products before becoming ill. Of the nine victims who reported a specific brand, all nine reported eating brands produced at Dole’s Springfield, OH, facility. Dole distributed salads from the facility to at least 24 states, according to a Jan. 27 recall notice on the FDA’s website. Illnesses were confirmed in nine states and five Canadian provinces. The illnesses in Canada began in May 2015, with the first confirmed case in the U.S. dating to July 2015. The final case in the U.S. was confirmed in January this year. Canada’s final case was confirmed in February. The CDC linked the listeria victims to the Dole produced salads of various brands after the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected a Dole brand “Field Greens” packaged salad from a retail location and isolated Listeria monocytogenes. The DNA fingerprint of the Listeria from that sample matched Listeria monocytogenes isolated from samples collected from sick people. “In January 2016, WGS (whole genome sequencing) … helped link the illnesses to Dole brand packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. Additionally, the Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed the presence of Listeria in packaged salads produced at the Dole Springfield, Ohio processing facility,” according to the CDC. Dole ceased production at the Ohio processing plant on Jan. 21. The company’s recall on Jan. 27 included all salads produced at the facility under the brands:
- Fresh Selections, a Kroger brand;
- Simple Truth, a Kroger brand;
- Marketside, a WalMart brand;
- The Little Salad Bar, sold at Aldi; and
- President’s Choice Organics, a Loblaws brand.
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