By: Pooja Sharma

Dole Food Company Inc. is contesting safety violations and fines that is linked to its Springfield, Ohio Plant and is filed by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), according to an inspection report.

The report revealed some details about the nature of the alleged violations almost immediately because Dole Inc. has contested them. According to information from the agency, an inspection opened up late in August at the Springfield facility of Dole that is located at 600 Benjamin Drive. The documents of the inspection showed two apparent violations:

  • The company was issued a penalty for a total amount of $12,675 in early October. The citation was labeled as a serious violation for the alleged “control of hazardous energy” (lockout/tagout)
  • One more citation was labeled as a reiteration of a violation for alleged “mechanical power-transmission apparatus”. It was filed by the OSHA the same day and included a penalty of $69,713.

This lead to a total penalty of $82,388 according to the documents of inspection by OSHA.

This was the only information that was released and federal agency didn’t provide any further details about the violations because Dole has contested them. A Freedom of Information Act request was filed by the Springfield News-Sun to request more information, but OSHA hasn’t responded to the request yet. Even Dole officials declined to comment.

A note was also present on top of the inspection form that was released by the federal agency. It said that the Dole inspection was not declared to be closed yet. The concerned parties should be aware of the fact that the information present might change, e.g. violation could be added or deleted.

In a completely separate case altogether, Dole Food Company Inc. was investigated in 2016 for a Listeria outbreak that caused several illnesses in people across different states and 2 deaths. 1 case was found in a pregnant woman too. The pre-packaged salad that was the source of the Listeria outbreak was manufactured at Springfield, Ohio, Dole processing facility. The salad was also distributed in 5 provinces of Canada. On January 21, 2016, Dole ceased production of all its pre-packaged salads that was produced at the Springfield facility. The very next day, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency also issue a food recall warning for all the pre-packaged salads that were distributed in Canada and were made in Dole’s Springfield facility. On January 27, Dole recalled all the pre-packaged salads that was produced at the facility.

Dole mentioned about the outbreak and about the notice they received after several claims of illnesses and deaths linking to their product. In the filing, they also mentioned being served a subpoena in April 2016 by the US Department of Justice. They wanted further information about the outbreak at the Listeria facility and their Springfield facility.

Dole further added that any product claim even if it is unsuccessful and not fully pursued can attract a lot of negative publicity surrounding the assertion that their produce could be linked to any illness or injury. This can in turn, also affect their reputation with any existing and potential customers and could also affect their corporate brand image. They added in their SEC that the claims or liabilities of this sort might not be covered by the insurance or by any other rights of contribution that they may have against others.

There were no further details released about the Department of Justice investigation that happened this week. The Department of Justice is not allowed to confirm, deny or comment on existence or nonexistence of the investigations as a matter of policy. An affiliate of Dole just purchased a 28-acre property near its plant along the Titus Road that is worth nearly $550,000 earlier this spring. Local officials informed that the company needed the property in case they plan any future expansion.

Dole Inc. opened its processing plant in Springfield in 1998 and employs more than 700 people at the plant. The packaged salad that is produced in the facility can be found in grocery stores all across the country. Dole also recently completed a $9 million expansion to add 1 processing line and 3 new packaging lines. In the SEC filing, Dole Food Company Inc. praises their food safety practices and mentioned that they continuously look for ways to strengthen food safety and agricultural practices.

The filing also mentioned about their routine procedures to process innovations and have also installed produce wash technology in each of their salad manufacturing plants. They have also started a sanitation program that leverages the most recent advancements in cleaning chemistry. The program is leading the industry for environmental surveillance and the latest technology for trending environmental testing results that occurs within a produce processing environment. Earlier in year 2017, the Springfield News-Sun reported Dole Inc. to have reached settlements for two separate civil lawsuits that are related to the outbreak. Even though the terms of agreements were not disclosed. The 2 cases involved a woman from Warren County and another woman from Franklin County. Dole Inc. denied allegations in both the cases according to records produced by court.

About Dole Inc.:

Dole Food Company is an American agricultural MNC that is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. The company is headquartered in Westlake Village, California. Dole Inc. employees 74,300 full time and seasonal employees. Dole has a own shipping line called Dole Ocean Cargo Express. It operates a fleet of 19 container ships that are fully equipped to support refrigerated containers instead of relying on other port infrastructure.

About OSHA:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) came into existence in 1970 under Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard Nixon signed into law. OSHA’s mission is to make sure that the company provides safe and healthful working conditions to all the employees that complies with the safety and health standards of OSHA.