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Dole Hearts Delight Bagged Salad Recalled; E. Coli Contamination Again

Sep 18, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

The Dole Food Company is issuing yet another recall for bagged salad because of  E. coli contamination.   The Dole salad recall comes just a year after Dole recalled bagged spinach that was responsible for an E. coli outbreak that sickened hundreds of people across the country.  Dole said that it informed the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) of the E. coli-tainted salad mix on Sunday and issued the recall late yesterday.   The company is now working with the FDA to determine the source of the E. coli contamination.

Dole is recalling its Hearts Delight Salad mix, a blend of romaine, green leaf and butter lettuce hearts, because a bag of the salad sold in Canada tested positive for E. coli contamination.   The recall affects all bags of Hearts Delight salad mix sold in the US and Canada with a “best if used by” date of September 19, 2007, and a production code of A24924A or A24924B.  Around 4,530 bags of the recalled Dole salad mix were sold in the US in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee starting September 8.  Another 528 bags were sold in Canada in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces.  But Dole is cautioning that the Hearts Delight Salad mix could have been sold in other states and provinces, because some was purchased by wholesalers who may have distributed the salad mix to a wider area.

Last September, bagged fresh baby spinach sold by Dole was linked to an E. coli outbreak that was blamed for the deaths of three people and sickened 200 others.  Health officials traced the source of that E. coli contamination to a cattle ranch adjacent to the California field where the spinach was grown.  It is believed that runoff from the ranch that was contaminated with cattle feces made its way into the spinach field.

The FDA is working on tracing the source of this E. coli contamination, and has already visited the Dole plant in Springfield, Ohio where the spinach was bagged.    The FDA is expected to visit Dole’s growers in California, Colorado and Ohio sometime in the next several days.

E. coli is a deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration.  Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to E. coli.   In some rare instances, the disease can progress to the point of kidney failure and death.  While most people who suffer from E. coli poisoning recover within 7 to 10 days, extreme cases can require blood transfusions and dialysis treatments.

This latest Dole recalls is bound to raise even more questions about the safety of the nation’s food supply.    Since 1996, fresh greens have been implicated in at least 13 E. coli outbreaks, and raw vegetables now cause more outbreaks of food poisoning than any other food.   Following last years bagged spinach E. coli outbreak,  118 companies from California’s Central Valley, where a large portion of the country’s fresh greens are grown,  signed on to the California Leafy Green Handler Marketing Agreement that set safety and inspection standards for the industry.  But those guidelines are strictly voluntary, a clearly did not work in the case of the Dole Hearts Delight Salad recall.

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