First suit filed against Dole in international Listeria outbreak

The adult daughter of an ailing consumer has filed a lawsuit against Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., a Division of Dole Food Company, Inc. (Dole), related to a deadly Listeria outbreak in the United States and Canada. In the complaint, the daughter seeks unspecified damages for her mother, who allegedly became ill in January 2016 and eventually fell into a coma after eating part of a packaged salad from Dole’s Springfield, Ohio, production facility.

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, since July 5, 2015, at least 18 people in the United States and 11 in Canada have been infected with Listeria as a result of their consumption of Listeria-contaminated leafy green products produced by Dole at its processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. Listeria (listeriosis) is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The complaint further alleges that:

  • Whole genome sequencing has been performed on Listeria specimens collected from all ill people and has shown that they are highly related genetically.
  • Listeria specimens were collected from ill people in the U.S. between July 5, 2015 and January 31, 2016.
  • All 18 ill people from the U.S. were hospitalized, including one person from Michigan who died as a result of listeriosis.
  • The 11 individuals from Canada became sick between May 2015 and early January 2016.
  • Some of the ill Canadians have reported eating packaged salads produced at the Dole facility in Ohio.
  • All ill Canadians have been hospitalized, with three people dying.

On January 27, 2016, Dole announced that it was temporarily suspending operations at its Springfield, Ohio facility and voluntarily recalling all salad mixes produced at that facility. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any products produced at other Dole processing facilities in the U.S. are linked to illness.

Since September 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collaborated with public health officials in several states, the U.S. FDA, and the Public Health Agency of Canada to investigate the outbreak.

On January 28, 2016, the FDA completed its analysis and confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a packaged salad produced at the Springfield, Ohio, facility. The FDA warned that consumers should not eat, and restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell, packaged salads produced at the facility.