Health officials have finally been able to pinpoint the source of a Listeria outbreak that sickened 12 people and killing 1.
Dole Food Co. announced that its fresh vegetable unit suspended production at an Ohio plant where the pathogen was detected, and is recalling packaged salads produced there. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the outbreak occurred last summer, but people should throw out any packaged salads produced at the facility, just to be cautious.
“On January 21, 2016, Dole reported to CDC that it had stopped all production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and is withdrawing all packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility,” the CDC said.
“CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.”
The salads were sold under the brand names Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. The affected salads can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturing code found on the package. 
The recall affects 23 states and 3 Canadian provinces.
Twelve people were sickened with Listeria after eating the packaged salads in July, and the CDC said health officials began investigating the illnesses in September; however, tests didn’t link the Listeria cases to the Ohio plant until this month.
It’s likely that more people were sickened, but the cases were never reported to the CDC. The 12 reported illnesses required hospitalization and samples show they were infected with genetically related germs.
“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that packaged salads produced at other Dole processing facilities in the United States are linked to illness,” the CDC said.
“Although the investigation began in September 2015, the source of these illnesses wasn’t known until January 2016 when the laboratory result from the packaged salad collected in Ohio linked the illnesses to the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.”
Kroger said it was pulling bagged salads produced at Dole’s Ohio plant from its stores in 8 states, including the Dole brand, as well as Kroger’s Fresh Selections and Simple Truth labels. A Kroger spokesman said it is shifting production for its store-brand salads to different facilities to make up for the deficit in product. 
The recall also affects 308 of Walmart’s stores in 9 states. A company spokesman said the Big Box chain is pulling the bagged salads from its outlets, and customers who already purchased the affected items can receive a full refund.
According to CDC estimates, 1,600 people are hospitalized with Listeria every year, and about 260 people die. Listeria isn’t generally dangerous for healthy people, but it can be life-threatening to people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and very young children.
Listeria can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and it can infect newborns.
 NBC News
Dole image credit: Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images