Listeria in Dole Lettuce: Don’t Eat It.

Listeria in Dole Lettuce


Listeria in Dole Lettuce? Salad will never look the same… at least salad made from Dole Lettuce.

The CDC recently posted an update on an ongoing epidemiological (outbreak) investigation into cases of Listeria monocytogenes reported in 13 states. Outbreak investigations work in reverse to try to figure out the common culprit amongst sick people. They involve a lot of interviews, retracing the steps of someone, testing potential exposures and using data and common sense to figure out the culprit. In this case, the culprit was packaged salads produced by Dole.

The investigation: Listeria in Dole Lettuce:

This was a years-long investigation starting in 2014. 17 people got sick and ranged from age 50 to 94. 82% were female. 13 people had to be hospitalized and 2 people died. These are the cases the CDC knows about. There were probably other cases that went undiagnosed. Interviews of cases, their friends and family members showed that the majority stated eating packaged salad. Some remembered the brand being Dole. Investigators then tested samples from Dole manufacturing plants and found Listeria on their equipment used to harvest iceberg lettuce. The FDA tested the genetic sequence of the samples from the Dole plants and compared it to the genetic sequences of the samples taken from the cases. They matched. Dole has since recalled a variety of salads and lettuce that were processed in the contaminated plants.

What is Listeriosis? 

It’s a serious infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes that most people get by eating contaminated foods. Food most likely to get contaminated with Listeria include deli meats, soft cheeses, melons, raw sprouts and unpasteurized milk products.

The illness targets pregnant women, newborns, immunocompromised people and older people. Pregnant people are especially at risk and interestingly, pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely to get infected than the general population. (Perhaps this has to do with some of the soft Spanish cheeses and how the food is prepared?)

Symptoms can include fever and diarrhea, like with many food-borne illnesses. If a person gets “invasive Listeriosis” it means the bacteria has spread in the body beyond the gut. That shows up approximately 1-4 weeks after eating the contaminated food, but it can take up to 70 days to show up!  If that is the case, pregnant women may get a fever, flu-like symptoms and have a higher chance of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery. Nonpregnant people may get a headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.

Treatment includes antibiotics, since it’s a bacteria.

Listeria in Dole Lettuce…but what specific products have been recalled? 

The full list of products is here. They include packaged salads under the brand Dole and others that included the lettuce processed in the Dole plant including: Heb, Marketside, President’s Choice, Kroger and Saladbar.

It’s not just Listeria in Dole Lettuce this week!

They just recalled some ice cream for testing positive for Listeria. Like the lettuce, it was processed in a plant that had equipment contaminated with Listeria. The ice cream brand is Batch and it is distributed in Massachusetts. Affected flavors were Vanilla, Ginger and Mocha Chip.

Other blogs to check out:

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Check out Dr. Eeks’ Health Podcast here! 


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