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Dole Food faces criminal investigation over listeria outbreak

FBR Staff Writer Published 02 May 2016

Dole Food Company is facing criminal investigation by the US Justice Department over a listeria outbreak linked to four deaths in the US and Canada and several other illnesses.

According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report accessed by Food Safety News, the company had knowledge of the listeria problem in one of its salad plants more than a year before it closed it in January.

The report found that products in the plant tested positive for listeria nine times before FDA initiated testing in January at a plant in Springfield, Ohio.

According to the FDA report, samples taken by Dole in its Springfield plant tested positive for the bacteria as early as July 2014. The inspectors also found that the company did not conduct adequate tests at its plant for potentially dangerous bugs.

FDA confirmed that it initiated inspections when it became aware of information which threatens public health.

The listeria outbreak is said to have claimed lives of four people and has reported to have sickened 33 across the US and Canada.

On its website, Dole stated: "At Dole, the safety of the foods we provide to our consumers, and the safety of our employees, are part of the fabric of our company. That's why we're concerned about the recent stories in some publications about the FDA's observation reports.

"Those FDA reports deal with issues at our plant that we have corrected. We have been working in collaboration with the FDA and other authorities to implement ongoing improved testing, sanitation and procedure enhancements, which have resulted in the recent reopening of our Springfield salad plant.

"We understand that these recent news reports may raise questions among our consumers and customers. They should be assured, however, that we have worked in conjunction with the FDA to address those observations and ensure that Dole products are safe.

"Dole has recently been contacted by the Department of Justice in connection with its own investigation, and we will be similarly cooperating with the DOJ to answer questions and address any concerns."

The FDA is still investigating the cause of contamination. The Springfield facility officials said that production at the site would continue to increase in the coming weeks.

In January this year, Dole issued a voluntary recall of all of its own-branded and private-label packaged salads produced at the Springfield facility. It also temporarily shut down the plant during the investigation, reported Cox Media Group.

The recalled products included several brands and varieties of salad mixes shipped throughout the Eastern US and Eastern Canada. The contaminated items were identified by the letter "A" at the beginning of the manufacturing code on the packages.

The recalled brands included Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President's Choice Organics.