Recalled salad mix blamed for Listeria monocytogenes outbreak

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with state and local partners and the CDC, is investigating an outbreak of ten Listeria monocytogenes illnesses in eight states.

The onset dates for illnesses linked to the outbreak strain range from July 26, 2016 to October 19, 2021.

The outbreak strain is a genetic match for the Listeria monocytogenes recovered from Fresh Express Sweet Hearts salad mix by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARM) during the course of a routine sampling program.

The MDARM issued a Consumer Advisory on December 17, 2021.

In response to the Listeria monocytogenes finding and the outbreak investigation, Fresh Express, Inc. has recalled certain varieties of its branded and private label salad products produced at the company’s Streamwood, Illinois facility.

Fresh Express, Inc. is a division of Chiquita Brands.

Affected brands include: Fresh Express, Giant Eagle, Little Salad Bar, Market District, Marketside, O Organics, Signature Farms, Simply Nature Organic, Weis Fresh From the Field, and Wellsley Farms Organic.

The recall includes all Use-By Dates of fresh salad items with product codes Z324 through Z350. Please refer to the Fresh Express recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

The recalled products were distributed in Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Some of the recalled products were also exported to Canada. Please refer to the CFIA recall notice for a complete list of affected products, which were sold in Manitoba and Ontario and also may have been distributed in other provinces and territories. 

A Repeat Offender

Fresh Express, which has suspended production at its Streamwood facility, has been the source of more than one previous foodborne disease outbreak.

In 2018, more than 500 customers of MacDonald’s in fifteen states were infected with Cyclospora after consuming a packaged romaine lettuce/carrot mix supplied to the restaurant chain by Fresh Express

In December 2019, Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits were identified as the source of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in the United States and Canada.

And on October 20, 2020, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to the company as a result of the agency’s investigation into the source of yet another multistate outbreak of cyclosporiasis that was traced back to bagged salad mixes produced at the Streamwood production plant.

On November 10, 2021, the FDA issued a Close-out Letter acknowledging the company’s corrective actions to the violations listed in the October 2020 Warning Letter.

What Retailers Need to Know

  • Stop serving or selling recalled produce, whether it is fresh or frozen. Produce stored at cold temperatures can be contaminated. Listeria monocytogenes can grow even at refrigerated temperatures.
  • Keep recalled produce away from other foods and from any equipment, utensils, and linens, among other things.
  • Determine if cross-contamination with other foods may have happened.
  • Determine the source of the produce, or the supplier if the source of the fresh/frozen produce is unknown.
  • Follow the instructions from the source or supplier on how to return or dispose of the recalled produce.
  • Your employees should wash their hands thoroughly after handling recalled produce.
  • Wash any clothing and linens that have may be contaminated.

What Consumers Need to Know

  • Mild symptoms may include a fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the more severe form of listeriosis develops, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. 
  • People infected with L. monocytogenes may start to see symptoms in a few hours or as long as two to three days after eating contaminated food. More severe forms of listeriosis may take anywhere from three days to three months to develop.
  • Consult your health care provider if you suspect that you or a family member has developed symptoms that resemble a L. monocytogenes infection.
  • Discard any of the recalled products or return them to the retailer for a refund.
  • Wash and sanitize any surfaces in your refrigerator or your kitchen that may have come into contact with one of the recalled products.
  • Canadian consumers should be on the alert for any recall notices issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In the meantime, do not purchase, serve or eat any of the products listed on the US recall notice.

For more information, members of the public can contact the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center toll-free line at: 800-242-5472

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