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Dole Reportedly Knew of Listeria at Plant Before Outbreak

Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney David Plunkett

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Thirty-three people got sick and four people died from a Listeria outbreak linked to packaged salad from Dole’s Springfield, OH, processing facility. That’s tragic, but as Food Safety News has reported, Dole knew that Listeria was present at this facility before the outbreak was ongoing and under investigation.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act requires companies to take preventive steps in the production of food so that hazards, like Listeria contamination, are anticipated and addressed before they have a chance to contaminate food and make people sick. But it looks like Dole didn’t get the memo.

Dole’s failure to stop shipping products and clean up its plant before the outbreak showed a total disregard for its customers’ health. Moreover, its press releases afterwards in recalling the bagged salads showed more concern over the company’s public image than for the people who buy its products. Dole’s customers deserved better than the company’s self-serving announcement.

The Food and Drug Administration should stop letting companies write their own recall notices and instead implement the recall notification system called for in FSMA. That system would require the FDA—not self-interested companies—to prepare recall notices that grocery stores must display for 14 days. Unfortunately, based on the agency’s actions to date, the FDA hasn’t done much to implement those recall provisions, and doesn’t appear to take informing consumers much more seriously than Dole did.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).