A Springfield Dole plant will remain closed for at least two weeks after one death and 12 illnesses from listeria have been linked to that facility.
Dole, which voluntarily shut down the site, estimates the plant that employs hundreds will reopen in two to four weeks, a company official indicated Saturday.
Until then, all production will occur at plants in California or North Carolina, but full-time Springfield workers will receive “normal compensation and benefits,” according to Bill Goldfield, Dole Food’s corporate communications director.
Several packaged salad products have been recalled, including Dole and store brands for Aldi, Meijer, Walmart and Kroger. The Cincinnati-based Kroger said Saturday it has removed products from sale in 10 states – including Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky - following the listeria outbreak.
The salads can be identified by a product code that begins with an “A” on the packaging and were sold in 23 U.S. states, including Ohio, and Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec in Canada.
A technology that is relatively new to tracking listeria - advanced molecular detection – helped the Center for Disease Control and Prevention trace the bacteria to the Dole plant, said Erin Sykes, agency press officer.
“And this helps us to get a genetic fingerprint specific to the outbreak that’s causing the illness,” she said. “So we were able to identify this fingerprint among the people who got sick and in the Dole facility.”
The outbreak caused the death of a Michigan man, but no Ohio illnesses have been reported, Sykes said Saturday.
Listeria is a food-borne bacterial illness typically found in raw vegetables and meats, as well as some soft cheeses. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer. Sykes said Saturday she did not have information on how the salads became contaminated and how the bacteria spread.
Until the Springfield plant reopens, all production will be done at plants in Soledad, Calif. or Bessemer City, N.C., Goldfield stated.
Dole is a top 25 employer in Clark County and has had a local presence since 2007. It started a $9 million expansion in 2014 to add more than 130 jobs and retain about 600 jobs. The expansion included three new packaging lines and one processing line for spinach, spring mix and baby lettuce products.
Goldfield stated all of Dole’s full-time Springfield employees will “report to work as usual during the interruption and will receive their normal compensation and benefits during that time.”
“We are striving to minimize the effect of this temporary interruption on our valued full-time employees and temporary staff,” according to his email. “…Many of the current temporary technical staff will similarly continue working at the facility during the interruption.
“Dole will assist the remaining temporary staff in applying for unemployment insurance and other benefits available during the temporary interruption,” Goldfield added, “and those who choose to return to Dole after the plant resumes operations will receive special returnee compensation to supplement amounts received during the shutdown. “
Among retailers, Kroger has removed Select Dole, Fresh Selections and Simple Truth Organic salads packaged at Dole’s Springfield facility in a move affecting about 800 stores.
Aside from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, stores under Kroger’s corporate umbrella in Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, as well as portions of Missouri and Alabama, are affected, according to Keith Dailey, Kroger director of media relations/corporate communications.
Kroger, Jay C and Food 4 Less stores are affected, Dailey added.
Aldi’s recall policy indicates “products that do not meet Aldi or government standards in any of these areas will be efficiently and effectively removed from sale,” according to its website.
Meijer and Walmart representatives indicated Friday they had removed the recalled packages from store shelves.
Staff Writers Matt Sanctis and Michael Cooper contributed to this report.