5,000 bags of Dole salad mix recalled

September 19, 2007

Dole Food Co. Inc. has recalled nearly 5,000 bags of its Dole Hearts Delight salad mix after a test by a Canadian food safety agency found E. coli bacteria in the product in a Canadian store. The salad mix also was being sold in a number of U.S. states.

No illnesses have been traced to the salad mix, according to Dole spokesman Marty Ordman. He said the bagged, pre-washed salad was made up of romaine lettuce grown in California and Colorado, butter lettuce from Ohio and green leaf lettuce grown in California.

The Dole Hearts Delight salad mix was sold in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, and in at least nine states — Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — a Dole statement said. The bags had a “best if used by” date of Sept. 19, and production codes of A24924A or A24924B. The company recommends that consumers dispose of bags with those codes.

The recall, initiated Monday, brought to mind a much larger recall when E. coli was found in Dole baby spinach in 2006. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed the 2006 contamination case resulted in 205 illnesses and three deaths.

In the latest case, the bacteria were discovered during a random test of salad mix taken from a grocery store shelf by Canadian health authorities, Ordman said. The company’s own testing, which has been stepped up since the 2006 recall, did not detect the contamination.

Garfield Balsom, a spokesman for Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said the testing protocol requires inspectors to take five units of a product for testing. The units — bags of salad mix in this case — are then mingled and tested.

Overall, 400 bags of the Dole Hearts Delight were sold in Canada and 4,500 bags in at least nine U.S. states, including Indiana and Michigan, according to a Dole company statement.

The latest recall occurs amid congressional debate over the effectiveness of America’s food safety efforts and whether the FDA could do more to prevent the contamination of domestic and imported food.

The salad recall is voluntary. The FDA does not have the authority to order companies to conduct recalls, though some in Congress argue that the agency should have that power.

In March, the FDA investigated contaminated wheat flour imported from China that was used to make pet food, and in June it placed restrictions on some imported fish and shellfish from China, fearing the presence of banned antibiotics. It also wrestled with the earlier spinach recall as well as a recall of Peter Pan peanut butter contaminated with salmonella.

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