Grinch Steals Christmas Salads

The Grinch who stole Christmas has a new name, and it is Listeria monocytogenes.

Late yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally posted Food Safety Alerts for two separate outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes.

Both outbreaks have been traced to contaminated packaged salads.

Both outbreaks have been simmering for years.

Both outbreaks have caused at least one death.

The Fresh Express Outbreak

According to the CDC’s Investigation report, this outbreak began on July 26, 2016, with a cluster of three cases in July and August of that year.

The fourth case occurred in October 2020, followed by the remaining six cases in February, August, September and October 2021.

All ten of the victims of this outbreak were hospitalized and there was one death (a Pennsylvania resident).

From CDC’s Food Safety Alert for Fresh Express outbreak

Illnesses associated with this outbreak were reported from eight states: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

From CDC’s Food Safety Alert for Fresh Express outbreak

On December 16, 2021, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recovered Listeria monocytogenes from a sample of Fresh Express Sweet Hearts Romaine Lettuce Sweet Butter Lettuce during a routine surveillance program. The state issued a Consumer Advisory the following day.

The CDC identified this outbreak after the microbe recovered from the salad sample was genetically typed and matched against genetic profiles contained in the agency’s database.

On December 20, 2021, Fresh Express announced a US recall of branded and private label salad products produced at the company’s Streamwood, Illinois facility.

Brands included in the recall are: 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.

Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Some of the Fresh Express salad products were also distributed in Canada. Please refer to the CFIA recall notice for complete details on the twenty-three items recalled in Canada.

As of today, there have been no reported illnesses in Canada that are linked to the Fresh Express products.

The Dole Fresh Vegetables Outbreak

The first illness in this outbreak occurred in August 2014. After a gap of four years, additional cases began to appear, beginning in September 2018 and continuing through October 2021.

From CDC’s Food Safety Alert for Dole outbreak

In all, sixteen people in thirteen states have been infected with the Dole outbreak strain. Twelve people have been hospitalized and two have died.

States reporting infections in this outbreak include: Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan (one death), Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin (one death).

From CDC’s Food Safety Alert for Dole outbreak

The CDC already was aware of this outbreak, having investigated it twice before—in 2019 and again in 2020. But, it had been unable to identify its source. The agency reopened its investigation in November 2021, after receiving reports of four new illnesses caused by the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes.

The link between the illnesses and salad products from Dole Fresh Vegetables was confirmed as a result of testing carried out by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

On December 22, 2021, Dole announced a recall of all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Bessemer City, NC and Yuma, AZ processing facilities.

Affected brands include: Ahold, Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise, and Simply Nature.

Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

There does not appear to have been any Canadian distribution of the recalled products.

What Consumers Need to Know

If you were planning to serve a packaged salad with your Christmas dinner, DON’T.

Do not eat any recalled packaged salads.

  • Throw them away or return them to where you bought them.
  • Clean your refrigerator, items, and surfaces that may have touched the recalled products. Listeria can survive in the refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating packaged salads.

  • Pregnant people 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.
  • People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Stay up to date on this outbreak by following CDC on Facebook or Twitter, or by following eFoodAlert

  • Share the latest outbreak information with your friends and family who are at higher risk of getting sick from Listeria(aged 65 and older, are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system).

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