HONOLULU (AP) _ Castle & Cooke, Inc., has hired consultants to evaluate the possibility of selling its Dole Food Co. subsidiary, the company said.

Castle & Cooke had announced earlier that it would split Dole and its real estate holdings into two businesses. However, those plans were held up by a softening of the real-estate financing market and the time needed to obtain an Internal Revenue Service ruling on a possible spinoff.

Castle & Cooke Chairman David Murdock said Thursday that a sale of Dole could be ''an attractive alternative to the planned separation of our two businesses.''

He said Castle & Cooke has been contacted by several major companies interested in acquiring Dole.

The evaluation of a possible sale will be done by the investment banking firm of Goldman, Sachs and Co., he said.

Dole, founded in 1901 as a Hawaii pineapple company, has annual sales of $2.5 billion. It is incorporated in Hawaii and based in Los Angeles.