Dole and Listeria: The Shaggy Defense

Dole’s Springfield plant, source of an awful outbreak of listeriosis linked to over 30 illnesses and four deaths, had resident Listeria monocytogenes problem. With illnesses stretching back to July 2015, linked through whole genome sequencing, the pathogen was hanging out somewhere.

The Packer reports that Dole is disputing a couple of lawsuits that have been filed on behalf of victims.

A suit filed in July for the estate of Ellen DiStefano alleges Dole failed to design and implement a food safety program capable of preventing listeria contamination of its salad mixes.

Listeria was found eight times in the Springfield plant from March 2014 to December 2015, according to a Food and Drug Administration report cited in court documents. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, also claims Dole did not use newer detection technologies such as genome sequencing.

DiStefano became ill Jan. 17 and died Feb. 27. She was 79.

“The product was not defective at the time it left Dole’s custody and control,” attorney R. Leland Evans said July 15 in the court record. “Any later defect was caused by a substantial alteration and change in the condition of the product by other parties over whom Dole had no control.”

Show me the data.

 

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.