Listeria Symptoms Explained As Two Deaths Linked to Dole Packaged Salad

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an outbreak of listeria linked to Dole packaged salads which have resulted in two deaths.

The outbreak had impacted 13 states as of February 1 and had also resulted in 17 people falling ill, with 13 hospitalizations, the CDC said in Food Safety Alert.

The affected salads produced by Dole include products sold under multiple brands including Dole, Ahold, Lidl, Kroger Nature's Promise, Simply Nature, and Presidents Choice.

These include different salad types including mixed greens, garden salads, Caesar kits, and many other types of salads in both bags and clamshells. The CDC says the affected Dole products have "Best If Used By" dates ranging from November 30 to January 9, 2022.

The recalled Dole salads have product codes beginning with the letter "B," "N," "W," or "Y" found in the upper right-hand corner of the package

Dole has produced two recall notices that comprise a list of recalled salads, which the CDC says should not be eaten and should be either thrown away or returned to the place they were sold.

In addition to the listeria outbreak connected to Dole salads, the CDC is also still investigating a separate outbreak of listeria linked to packaged salads produced by Fresh Express. This second outbreak was discovered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture in December 2021 and is connected to one death, 10 illnesses, and 10 hospitalizations in 8 states.

What is Listeria?

The CDC defines listeria, or more precisely listeriosis, as a serious infection that is usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

It is currently the third leading cause of food poisoning-related deaths in the United States, with the CDC estimating that an average of 1,600 people will suffer from listeria each year. Of these infections, about 260 will prove fatal.

The symptoms of listeria infection depend on the part of the body infected, with the most common infection being fever and diarrhea when the food-borne bacteria is located in the gut.

If the listeria infection spreads beyond the gut, other symptoms include a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions. Severe invasive listeriosis occurs when the infection spreads to the blood or central nervous system.

Symptoms of this usually present between one and four weeks after eating contaminated food, but the CDC adds that symptoms have been reported as developing as late as 70 days after consumption.

While anyone can develop listeria, pregnant women are 10 times more likely than other people to develop such an infection. Pregnant women with listeria are particularly at risk, with the infection known to cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm labor.

In addition to this, expectant mothers can transmit listeria infection to their unborn child which can result in serious illness and death in newborns.

Also at greater risk of developing severe illness from listeria are adults 65 years in age and older, and people with weakened immune systems.

How To Stay Safe From Listeria

The CDC offers several tips to help people avoid infection from listeria, which include washing hands thoroughly, ensuring refrigerators and freezers are kept at optimum temperatures, washing fruit and vegetables, but not meat poultry, and eggs.

The risk of listeria can also be diminished by keeping raw meat and poultry separate from fresh or ready-to-eat products in both areas of preparation such as chopping boards, but also in refrigerators.

For anyone who believes they have stored the products affected by listeria outbreaks in their fridge, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers advice on cleaning methods to help remove potentially lingering bacteria.

The FDA advises that the walls and shelves of refrigerators should be washed, and adds that a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water can be used to sanitize the interior. This should then be dried with a fresh paper towel.

The FDA says that the same process can be used to sanitize any preparation surfaces or utensils that may have come into contact with listeria-contaminated products.

Salad Listeria
(Left) A stock image of a packaged salad. (Right) A 3D model of the listeria bacteria. The CDC is investigating a listeria outbreak associated with Dole salads that has killed two people. Joe_Potato/ wildpixel/GETTY