U.S. health officials are warning the public not to eat certain brands of packaged salads, which they say are linked to two small, long-running listeria outbreaks in which three people died.
One outbreak is linked to packaged salads produced by Fresh Express and another has been tied to packaged salads produced by Dole. The outbreaks are caused by different strains of listeria bacteria and there's no known link between them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
Here's what we know:
Fresh Express Recalls Salads Due to Listeria Risks
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In the outbreak linked to Fresh Express, ten people in eight states — Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — were identified in the outbreak between 2016 and late October of this year. All were hospitalized and one person, in Pennsylvania, died.
The CDC notes that the true number of people infected with the outbreak strain of listeria is likely higher than the number reported and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses because most people recover without medical care and are not tested for the listeria bacteria.
This week, Fresh Express recalled several brands of packaged salad products produced at its Streamwood, Illinois, facility after routine sampling of prepackaged romaine and sweet butter lettuce tested positive for the outbreak strain of listeria.
The recalled packaged salads were sold under the brand names Fresh Express, Bowl and Basket, Giant Eagle, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, O Organics, Signature Farms, Simply Nature, 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 (full list of recalled products here). Product codes are located on the front of the packages below the Use-By Date.
The products were sold in nearly 20 states, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Illinois, among others.
The CDC is telling people not to eat, sell, or serve any recalled products.
According to the recall, consumers can obtain a refund or get more information by calling the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center at (800) 242-5472 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET. Refunds are also available where purchased, officials said.
Dole Recalls Fresh Vegetable Salads Over Listeria Concerns
A separate outbreak caused by a different strain was found on two Dole packaged salads. In that outbreak, 16 people in 13 states – including Texas, Pennsylvania and Delaware — infected with the listeria strain have been reported between August 2014 and mid-October of this year. That includes 12 who were hospitalized and two — in Michigan and Wisconsin — who died.
The CDC had previously investigated that outbreak in 2019 and 2020, but was unable to gather enough data to identify the source in the past. After additional illnesses were reported, state and local public health officials who interviewed people, or their family, about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick learned that seven out of eight reported eating packaged salads. Of the three people who remembered a specific brand, two reported Dole and one reported Little Salad Bar.
The CDC reopened this outbreak investigation and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development collected samples of packaged salads from retail stores for testing and identified the outbreak strain of listeria in a Marketside brand package of shredded iceberg that was produced by Dole.
Dole announced Wednesday it was recalling several brands of packaged salads with “best if used by” dates from Nov. 30 to Jan. 8. Products subject to the recall are identified by a product lot code beginning with the either the letter “N” or “Y” in the upper right-hand corner of the package under the best-by date.
Products include mixed greens, garden salads, Caesar kits, and other types of salads in bags or clamshells sold under the brand names Ahold, Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature's Promise and Simply Nature. They were distributed to 25 states. (See the full list of products and states here.)
Retailers have been advised to check store shelves and warehouse inventories to confirm that no recalled product is available for purchase by consumers. The CDC is urging consumers not to eat or serve any recalled products.
Retailer and consumer questions about the Dole recalls should be directed to the Dole Consumer Response Center at 800-356-3111, Monday—Friday, 8:00 a.m. PT to 3:00 p.m. PT.
What Are the Symptoms of Listeria?
It's not known where the listeria originated in either outbreak, but it's a hardy bacteria that can linger on surfaces in production facilities or other places, officials say.
Listeria symptoms usually start one to four weeks after eating contaminated food, but can start as soon as the same day.
Anyone with symptoms of listeriosis infection — which include fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea — are urged to contact their doctor. More severe cases could include symptoms like headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions. In some immunocompromised, young or elderly people, it can even result in death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.