The latest in a string of leafy green recalls to give you pause before you bite into a salad comes courtesy of Dole. Dole Fresh Vegetables has issued a limited and precautionary recall of certain plastic bags and clamshell packages of fresh baby spinach. The recall follows a safety alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier in August, 2019 about possible salmonella contamination.
Dole Recalls Baby Spinach
Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling certain packages of baby spinach sold in 6 oz. bags and 10 oz. clamshell containers. Consumers can identify the products in the recall because they are labeled with a use-by date of August 5, 2019. At this time, Dole says there are no reports of illnesses.
Dole is taking precautions because a sample of baby spinach in Michigan tested positive for salmonella during routine inspections. Dole is a national brand with a large distribution range. The possibly contaminated product would be available for purchase in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Just because the products in this recall are already past the expiration date, doesn’t mean that consumers are out of the woods. As a fresh food, baby spinach can be kept in the refrigerator for several days or weeks, can be frozen, and can be consumed in prepared dishes. Dole is advising consumers to check their baby spinach products. Anyone who has a possibly contaminated package of spinach should throw it away.
If you experience symptoms of salmonella illness, or Salmonellosis, within 72 hours of eating Dole baby spinach, report it to your state’s Health Department immediately. You can also report your illness to Dole. If your illness was severe enough to require medical attention, you may also consider contacting a food safety attorney to discuss your legal rights.
Salmonella – The Most Common Foodborne Illness
More people report food poisoning from salmonella than any other foodborne pathogen. More than one million Americans get sick from this pathogen every year, and about 450 people die. Usually symptoms of salmonella begin within 72 hours of eating the contaminated food. Sometimes, however, it may be several days before symptoms are present.
Common symptoms of salmonella illness include:
- Abdominal pain
Most people recover from salmonella relatively quickly. However, with 450 people dying due to salmonella-related illness each year, there are certainly populations that are more vulnerable. This includes the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
Why are Leafy Green so Vulnerable to Salmonella?
Bad Food Recall recently discussed another recall of leafy greens contaminated with listeria. It seems like lettuce and spinach are consistently in the news with the potential to make you sick. Whole Foods issued two recalls of spinach in January, and there were sweeping romaine lettuce recalls last year due to an E. coli outbreak.
Before you commit to a life of French fries instead of side salads, consider some of the reasons why leafy greens are so vulnerable to bacterial contamination and so often the subject of recalls.
Why are Leafy Greens Subject to So Many Recalls?
Fresh vegetables are popular among the notoriously health-conscious millennial, as well as among baby boomers. According to USA Today, both groups will choose fresh produce over frozen or canned varieties with increasing regularity. Salad-based restaurants are soaring in popularity. Even fast food chains have contributed to the popularity of leafy greens by including salads on their menus.
Global market research firm Mintel reports that more than 70 percent of vegetables U.S. consumers purchase yearly are fresh produce. These numbers represent an enormous jump from even five years ago when fresh vegetable sales were only 15 percent of the market. More than 10 percent of vegetables in grocery stores today are fresh cut salads. The fresh vegetable trend is still on the upswing and is setto grow by 8 percent in the next couple of years.
With so many individual leafy green products available for purchase, the incidence of foodborne illness associated with them will seem comparatively higher simply because there is more available to buy.
Farming is Not a Sterile Environment
The vast majority of fresh produce grows in soil in the outdoors. Dirt can be, and often is, fertilized with manure. Bacteria can transfer via birds and bugs that touch the plants. Animals may defecate in water sources that irrigate farms.
A lot of consumers find the imagery of an open field filled with fresh produce to be attractive, but it is important to realize these fields are not in a bubble. They are outside where there are plants that will interact with contaminants from soil, water, and animals.
Though farmers spend quite a lot of money to adhere to FDA standards for cleanliness, nature can intervene. This is why routine testing of food products is so important to public health. Large companies like Dole are not necessarily responsible when animals or other acts of nature contaminate their products. However, they are responsible for placing those products up for sale. The purpose of testing and any subsequent recalls is to keep dangerous food from harming consumers.
Like many fresh vegetable and fruit products that are eaten raw, the edible portion of spinach has no defense against pathogens. Foods with rinds have natural armor, and even solid vegetables with thin skins can be fairly easily washed. Leafy greens present ample opportunity for bacteria to nestle in and be nearly impossible to wash off.
Centralized Farming Makes it Tough to Track Outbreaks
Modern farming practices involve growing food at a central location, then packing and preserving it to ship to distribution centers around the country. Moving contaminated food over great distances makes it very difficult to track the source of outbreaks.
When food travels far away from its point of origin, agencies like the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) must utilize massive amounts of manpower and resources in their attempts to keep consumers safe from foodborne illness. With a product like spinach that are available in most stores and available in commercial kitchens, it makes tracking illness even harder.
The convenience of ready-to-eat bags of spinach is also a trade-off for the increased risk of contamination among vegetables processed in a central location. Leafy greens that come in from the fields without contamination can encounter bacteria if the equipment in the packaging facility has come into contact with other contaminated food. Individual leaves contaminated with bacteria can leave traces behind that can spread throughout an entire lot of spinach.
Raw Foods are Riskier
Foods that we eat raw do not have the benefit of the cooking phase that kills bacteria. Consumers preparing raw dishes should use smart food safety including washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
Foodborne pathogens have an incubation period that can last a couple of days or more than a week. By the time victims begin to show symptoms, they may have eaten dozens of different raw foods, each of which could have been the source of their illness.
Have Questions about Food Recalls and Your Rights?
If you have questions about fresh vegetable recalls and your rights as a consumer, contact Bad Food Recall. Food manufacturers and distributors should be held responsible when their products make you sick. Call 1-877-534-5750 or complete our online form if you have questions.