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Health, Science and Environment

Fresh Express and Dole recall hundreds of salad products over listeria concerns

Check your fridge: Fresh Express and Dole Fresh Vegetables are recalling hundreds of varieties of packaged salad products over possible listeria contamination and are asking customers to throw them away immediately.

The two recalls appear to be unrelated, but together they affect more than 400 products across dozens of states and two Canadian provinces.

Fresh Express announced Monday that it was recalling some 225 varieties of salads that were produced at its Streamwood, Ill., facility and distributed to retailers in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as parts of Canada. Dole followed suit on Wednesday with 180 product recalls, and it is temporarily suspending operations at its facilities in Bessemer City, N.C., and Yuma, Ariz., for cleaning and sanitation.

Both cited concerns about possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeria infections. Listeriosis is a foodborne bacterial illness that can be especially serious for pregnant people, those over 65 and people with weakened immune systems. Other individuals may experience short-term symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Learn more here from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's what each company is saying and which salad products they want you to toss.

The strain of bacteria found in a Fresh Express salad matched that from an outbreak that has sickened people across eight states since 2016

Fresh Express says the recall arose after the Michigan Department of Agriculture got a positive result for Listeria monocytogenes in a routine random-sample test of a single package of salad mix that was prepared at Fresh Express' Streamwood facility and had a use-by date of Dec. 8.

The strain of bacteria detected in that random sample matched the strain from a listeria outbreak that has sickened multiple people across eight states, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The outbreak has been associated with 10 illnesses, 10 hospitalizations and one death spanning these states:

  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • The illnesses began on dates ranging from July 26, 2016, to Oct. 19, 2021. The FDA is working with the CDC as well as state and local partners to investigate the outbreak.

    "Our investigation is ongoing, and we will continue to communicate should additional products be implicated," said Frank Yiannas, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food policy and response.

    Fresh Express has halted production at its Streamwood facility and recalled a variety of products that were made there. Those include a wide range of greens, lettuce mixes and packaged salads of various sizes. You can find the full list here (the product codes listed are located on the front of the packages, below the use-by date).

    The recalled products were distributed to:

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin
  • Canadian provinces including Ontario and Manitoba
  • Fresh Express says it has directed affected retailers to remove the recalled items from their shelves and to stop any further shipments from distribution centers.

    If you happen to have any of the products in your fridge, the FDA says you should throw them away and not consume them. It also recommends using "extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing" any surfaces that may have come into contact with these products, since listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

    For more information or to obtain a refund, you can call the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center at 1-800-242-5472 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET.

    Dole products from two facilities have also been associated with a strain believed to have caused more than a dozen illnesses since 2014

    Dole says it's recalling all Dole-branded and private-label packaged salads processed at its Bessemer City and Yuma production facilities over possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

    It's also suspending operations at those facilities in order to conduct "an extensive cleaning and sanitation protocol."

    Dole says a package of Dole-branded Garden Salad from Bessemer City and a package of shredded iceberg lettuce from Yuma were randomly sampled by Georgia and Michigan, respectively. They proved to be a genetic match with a strain of bacteria that the FDA and CDC believe is responsible for 16 listeria illnesses since 2014.

    Dole is recalling some 177 products — ranging from containers of spinach, arugula and other greens to coleslaw and salad kits — made in the Bessemer City facility, as well as three types of shredded lettuce from the Yuma facility. Here's the full list.

    Products affected by the recall have a "best if used by" date between Nov. 30, 2021, and Jan. 8, 2022, and can be identified through their product lot code at the top-right corner of the packages.

    Recalled items from the Bessemer City facility were distributed in the states of:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Products from the Yuma facility were distributed in the states of:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Dole is asking customers who bought these products to throw them away immediately and is urging retailers to check their store shelves and warehouse inventories to confirm that none of these items are available for purchase.

    If you have questions, you can call the Dole Consumer Response Center at 1-800-356-3111 on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. E.T.


    A version of this story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Corrected: January 5, 2022 at 12:00 AM EST
    A previous photo accompanying this story displayed Ready Pac products in addition to Fresh Express and Dole products. Ready Pac was not part of the recall, and that image has been removed.