FDA update on the listeria outbreak

What was the Problem and What was Done About It?

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.

According to CDC, 12 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from six states since July 5, 2015. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), New Jersey (1), New York (4), and Pennsylvania (1). Dates of Listeria specimen collection range from July 5, 2015, to December 23, 2015.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has been performed on clinical isolates from all ill people and showed that the isolates are highly related genetically to one another. All 12 ill people reported being hospitalized, and one person from Michigan died as a result of listeriosis. One of the illnesses reported was in a pregnant woman. Ill people range in age from 3 years to 83, and the median age is 66. Sixty-nine percent are female. Five of the ill people were asked specifically about their consumption of bagged salad prior to the onset of illness, and all five reported eating packaged salad in the month before becoming ill. Two of the ill people were able to specified a brand of packaged salad, and both reported eating different varieties of Dole brand packaged salads. In November 2015, the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad from a retail location and isolated Listeria monocytogenes. WGS showed that the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the bagged salad was highly related genetically to isolates from the 12 ill people. This bagged salad was produced at the Springfield, Ohio, Dole processing facility.  Although the investigation began in September 2015, the source of these illnesses wasn’t known until January 2016 when the laboratory result from the packaged salad collected in Ohio linked the illnesses to the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 21, 2016, Dole reported to FDA and CDC that it ceased production of all packaged salads at its processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. Additionally, the company reported that it is withdrawing all packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. These packaged salads were sold under various brand names, but all carry a product code beginning with the letter “A.”