- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bagged lettuce sold in at least nine states was recalled yesterday after it tested positive for E. coli.

Dole Fresh Vegetables, a division of Dole Food Co. Inc., announced that it is voluntarily recalling all salad sold with the label “Dole Hearts Delight” in the U.S. and Canada, one day after Canadian food inspectors discovered the bacteria.

Almost one year ago, bagged spinach sold by Dole was the subject of a nationwide recall, also because of E. coli contamination.

E. coli is a deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and lead to dehydration. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to E. coli infections.

In the United States, Dole’s latest recall affects only packages sold in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee starting Sept. 8, said Marty Ordman, a Dole spokesman. The recall also affects lettuce sold in Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces of Canada.

Spokesmen for area Giant Food and Safeway grocery stores said they do not stock the product.

The salad blend contains romaine, green leaf and butter lettuce hearts that were grown in Ohio, Colorado and California’s Salinas Valley.

Federal investigators are trying to trace the source of the E. coli contamination and have already visited the Dole plant in Springfield, Ohio, where the lettuce was bagged. Federal investigators will visit Dole”s growers in California, Colorado and Ohio over the next several days.

The recall affects all packages of Hearts Delight sold in the United States and Canada with a “best if used by” date of Sept. 19, 2007. Eighty-eight cases — or 528 bags — were distributed in Canada, and 755 cases containing 4,530 bags were distributed in the United States, a Dole spokesman said.

The tainted bag of Dole’s Hearts Delight salad mix was sold at a store in Canada. Dole has not received reports of anyone getting sick from the product.

“We are working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and several U.S. state and health departments,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Dole Fresh Vegetables.

Last September’s E. coli outbreak was traced to California spinach that was packaged for Dole by another company, Natural Selection Foods of San Benito County. The outbreak killed three persons and sickened 200 others. Since then, Dole has been processing its own salad products.

In the past year, several other high-profile food-safety scares raised concerns among federal health regulators, including an E. coli outbreak linked to Yum Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell restaurants and a salmonella contamination of Peter Pan peanut butter made by ConAgra Foods Inc.

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