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Packaged salad listeria outbreak kills one in Macomb County

MACOMB COUNTY, MI -- One Michigan resident has died and three others fell ill as part of a listeria outbreak in six states linked to Dole packaged salads.

Officials are working to identify the source of the contamination and urging people to throw away salads that could be affected.

Twelve people in six states — Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — have been infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes since July 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The sole death was a person who lived in Macomb County. That person’s name, age, gender and hometown have not been publicly released because of confidentiality rules, said Angela Minicuci, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Although the outbreak began in July, officials were not able to isolate its source until January.

The outbreak was traced to a Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. Dole has since shut down the facility and is withdrawing all packaged salads that were produced there, according to the CDC.

Officials are now hunting for the source.

“I liken this to a sort of food safety ‘CSI.’ It sometimes takes a while to identify a source of contamination, and sometimes a source is never identified,” said Jennifer Holton, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“(The outbreak) was associated with products produced at that plant, but it doesn’t mean the contamination occurred at that plant. ... All aspects of the supply chain are going to be looked at.”

Holton said the state agriculture and health departments are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the investigation.

She said officials are trying to get a distribution list so they can pinpoint where the prepackaged salads were shipped in Michigan.

“We are all committed to food safety,” she said.

The affected products are sold under various brand names including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President’s Choice. They can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturing code on the package.

People who bought the products should throw them away and wash the refrigerator drawer where they were stored, as well as any cutting boards used to chop the greens.

The people who got sick ranged in age from 3 to 83, the CDC said.

Listeria can cause listeriosis, a life-threatening illness. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, muscle aches, and nausea, sometimes diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, according to state health officials.

The disease primarily affects pregnant women, newborn babies, older adults and adults with weakened immune systems. The incubation period is typically between two and three weeks, but can be as long as 70 days.