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).

Contaminated corn behind Canadian Salmonella outbreak

Alasko brand IQF whole kernel corn 2 KG - lot code_0Frozen whole kernel corn is the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis that has sickened at least 84 Canadians in five provinces, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Four of the outbreak victims have been hospitalized.

Confirmed outbreak cases have been reported by British Columbia (36), Alberta (30), Saskatchewan (4), Manitoba (12) and Ontario (2). The Ontario outbreak victims reported having traveled to British Columbia and Alberta prior to becoming ill.

The outbreak, which began in early September, appears to be ongoing.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) identified the source of the outbreak after analyzing multiple food samples obtained from restaurants where outbreak victims had eaten.

The CFIA recoverd the outbreak strain from an unopened package of Alasko brand frozen whole kernel corn.

The investigation has spawned three recalls to date, and it is possible that further traceback investigation may result in additional recalls.

The recalls

  • New Alasko Limited Partnership recalls Alasko brand IQF whole kernel corn (12 kg (6×2 kg); Lot #GT21120; P.O. 112943; UPC 1 069505 816003 4), distributed to Hotels, restaurants and institutions and manufacturers in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba and possibly elsewhere in Canada.
  • New Alasko Limited Partnership recalls Alasko brand IQF whole kernel corn (12 kg (6×2 kg); Lot #GT21117, GT21123 & GT21143; P.O. 112954, 112944 & 112955, respectively; UPC 1 069505 816003 4) distributed to hotels, restaurants and institutions, manufacturers and retailers in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec and possibly elsewhere in Canada.
  • Fraser Valley Meats recalls Fraser Valley Meats brand Whole Kernel Corn (frozen) (~2 kg; Sold between December 3 and December 15, 2021; UPC 2 000921 000002), sold to the general public in British Columbia.

What consumers need to know

  • Do not eat, use, sell, or serve any recalled Alasko brand or Fraser Valley Meats brand frozen whole kernel corn. This advice applies to individuals, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and long-term care homes, across Canada.
  • Symptoms of a Salmonella infection can include: fever, chills, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, nausea, and/or vomiting.
  • If you believe you have consumed the recalled product and are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact your health care professional.
  • Discard any recalled product or return it to the supplier.
  • Clean and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with the recalled product.
  • For more information, members of the public can contact the PHAC toll-free at: 1-866-225-0709
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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