Daughter of Dole listeriosis outbreak victim speaks out

Family behind Springfield’s Dole lawsuit want answers

An Ohio family filed a lawsuit against Dole after they said lettuce testing positive for listeria left their mother in a coma in a Cincinnati hospital.

Kiki Christofield, 77, of Hamilton County, ate pre-packaged lettuce for lunch on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 that was prepared at Dole’s Springfield plant, said her daughter, Joanna Caneris.

On Jan. 31 Christofield was in a coma in a Cincinnati hospital, Caneris said.

“It’s extremely difficult to deal with, and there’s this horrible thing we don’t know what the outcomes going to be,” the daughter said.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday, the Ohio Department of Health tested Christofield’s bag of Dole lettuce, which was found to be tainted with listeria.

The civil lawsuit filed against Dole is not only for Christofield, family said, but for the other people across the United States sickened by the lettuce tainted with listeria.

“We felt a responsibility to find out what was known about this before — what did Dole foods know, if anything?” Caneris said.

Listeria is a food-borne bacteria typically found in raw vegetables and meats, as well as some soft cheeses. About 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis occur annually in the U.S., according to the CDC.

A confirmed 18 people have been sickened by the Dole lettuces, the lawsuit claims, and one person died.

Lab tests performed by the Ohio Department of Health linked the outbreak to packaged salads produced in Springfield.

Christofield is slowly progressing, Caneris said. Christofield recently has opened her eyes, but her future is still unknown.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Caneris said about the pain the illness has caused her family.

Two of the most important steps people can take to prevent food-borne illnesses like listeria is to prevent cross contamination of foods and to properly wash them, said Kathy Green, a consumer science expert with the Ohio State University Extension Office in Springfield.

“That even starts in your shopping cart,” Green said.

For fresh vegetables like the lettuce Christofield ate, it is important to thoroughly wash them before eating, experts said.

Washing hands is also very important, Green said.

“Anytime you touch food or before you eat — take extra time to wash your hands,” she said.

Food-borne illness can happen anytime and anywhere, said Geoff Norman, who’s owned the diner Fountain on Main, 14 E. Main St., in downtown Springfield for more than a decade.

“So when in doubt, be conservative and over-do it,” he said about carefully washing fresh foods and hands around food.

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