Dole Fresh Vegetables, Monterey, a division of Dole Food Company, Inc., announced September 17 a voluntary recall of all salad bearing the label "Dole Hearts Delight" sold in the U.S. and Canada with a "best if used by" date of September 19. Two of the lettuces in this mix produced in Ohio came from the Salinas Valley according to Dole Fresh Vegetables president Eric Schwartz. He would not however identify the fields where the lettuce was grown, because of an ongoing FDA investigation.
This product was sold in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada and in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and neighboring states in the U.S. Consumers can call the Dole Consumer Center toll-free at 800-356-3111. It was not sold in California.
To date, Dole has received no reports that anyone has become sick from eating these products. The recall is occurring because a sample in a grocery store in Canada was found through random screening to contain E. coli O157:H7. No other Dole salad products are involved.
The recall raises a red flag because the discovery was made by the Canadian government and not "market forces" touted by industry. Indeed, California State Senator Dean Florez, Chair, Senate Select Committee on Food-Borne Illness, quickly pointed out in a letter to California Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura,"…that the Canadian Government would only allow the import of California leafy green produce that is subject to the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA)." Florez asked the Secretary whether the processor was a signatory to the LGMA and whether the packaging containing the contaminated spinach bears the official seal of the LGMA.
Another issue raised is the effectiveness of Dole's recently announced Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID). "Dole was on TV in California this spring saying they had a computer chip in each box that would allow them to trace a head of lettuce to a 30'x50' space within a field, yet here we are days into a recall impacting industry and consumers in two nations, and we have only narrowed the source down to three states," Florez charges.
Dole responds that the system worked in California but had not been implemented in Colorado or Ohio where some of the mix was grown.