Dole Food Co. Inc. would have had a better third-quarter report if it hadn’t spent $4.6 million on the temporary closure and cleaning of a North Carolina bagged salad plant in the wake of recalls.

President David DeLorenzo told investors the plant was closed for seven weeks during the quarter so it could be dismantled and cleaned. He said neither Dole nor inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration could find any problems at the plant.

DeLorenzo referred to the expense as one of several “moving parts” in the third quarter that caused the Westlake Village, Calif.-based company to report a loss of $13.9 million for the quarter. But compared to the $47 million loss for the third quarter of 2011, this year’s activity was termed good news.

The company also had bad news on the berry front, with a year-over-year decrease of $3 million because of bad weather in strawberry growing regions.

Chief financial officer Joseph Tesoriero said revenue for the quarter was down 6% for the third quarter compared to 2011, and sales were up 2%.

Banana prices in the U.S. continue to be lower than the company would like, but DeLorenzo said tighter supplies could mean that 2013 is the turn-around year for the fruit.

“North America is still feeling the recession and retailers are very price sensitive,” DeLorenzo said. “We all agree retail prices (on bananas) are too low. Just a couple of cents per pound would make a tremendous difference.”

Dole officials are banking on their $1.69 billion deal to sell the company’s worldwide packaged foods division and its Asia fresh produce businesses to Japan-based Itochu Corp. to help overall performance. The deal is expected to close in the coming weeks.