(Oct. 3) Certain Dole pre-packaged salads are the focus of a nationwide health alert issued by the Food and Drug Administration, stemming from an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Minnesota.

As of Oct. 3, there were 11 cases of illness attributed to E. coli O157 in the state. Of those, two individuals had been hospitalized. The latest reported illness was Sept. 19, according to the FDA.

Three lines of Dole salads, all of which bear specific expiration dates and production codes beginning with “B250,” were linked to the outbreak.

The three prepackaged salad products involved are Classic Romaine and American Blend, each with a “best-if-used-by” date of Sept. 23; and Greener Selection, with a “best-if-used-by” date of Sept. 22.

The FDA, in a news release dated Oct. 2, said no other Dole salad products were involved and that Dole had issued a recall for the products linked to the problem.

Eric Schwartz, president of Salinas, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables, said the company is cooperating fully with FDA, and that all Dole production facilities had passed two FDA inspections, Sept. 30 and Oct. 2.

An FDA spokesman declined to comment on that.

“We are working with Dole, and they are cooperating with our investigation, although I can’t give any specifics at this time,” the spokesman said.

Schwartz said the investigation was ongoing but product linked to the problem was purchased at Rainbow Foods stores in Minnesota. The FDA confirmed that information.

“We did distribute this product nationwide,” he said. “We shipped a little over 245,000 bags, but if we’ve only had this call up in Minneapolis, we’re treating it as an isolated incident.”

One of the 11 reported illnesses was not related to the salads, Schwartz said.

“We know one of those did not consume salad,” he said. “Actually, one of the consumers that did allegedly get sick still had their bag left. FDA has tested that bag, and it came back negative.”

The FDA spokesman said the agency had not tested any products.

“Those tests have been done by the states,” he said.

The FDA is working with the company and the state on tracebacks to identify the source of the contamination and how it occurred, the spokesman said.

“Most of the product likely would have been off the shelf, anyhow, due to the best-if-used-by date,” he said. “However, for some reason, if any were out there, it should have been pulled from the shelves, and if any consumer have any in their refrigerators, they should destroy it.”

E. coli O157:H7 infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, and sometimes the infection causes nonbloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Usually little or no fever is present, and the illness resolves in five to 10 days. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, in some cases, particularly those involving children under 5 and the elderly, the infection also can prompt a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney damage and death.