December 2014

According to the FDA:

The FDA has traced the distribution of the caramel apples eaten by eight ill people involved in the outbreak.  Although the Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies receive apples from other growers, the FDA’s ongoing traceback investigation has confirmed that Bidart Bros. is the only apple grower that supplied apples to both companies.  

On December 22, 2014, the FDA briefed Bidart Bros. on the status of the investigation.

On December 22, 2014, Bidart Bros. issued a recall of Granny Smith apples it sold in 2014 to those customers known to produce caramel apples.  Then, on December 24, 2014, Bidart Bros. notified all customers receiving Granny Smith apples in 2014 to recall those apples if they had been used to make caramel apples.

Bidart Brothers from California, who processed Granny Smith and Gala Apples this last fall, have been the common denominator as the source of apples used in the production of caramel apples implicated in the latest illnesses and deaths.  It is unclear if Bidart Brothers also supplied Del Monte or Giant Eagle in earlier recalls.  However, to date Bidart Brothers have not recalled any apples, although I expect that to change.

The CDC announced this AM that the Caramel Apple Listeria toll no stands at 32 ill in the United States and two in Canada.  At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy,

Happy Apple reported that it recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility.

California Snack Foods issued a voluntary recall of California Snack Foods brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th 2014.

Pacific Coast Fruit announced on its website that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples sold to caramel coated candy apple.  Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers. Pacific Coast Fruit Company is now in the process of contacting customers and recalling all Happy Apple brand apples sold after September 22, of 2014.

Merb’s Candies is issuing a voluntary recall of the Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples.  Merb’s Candies has been working with the Food and Drug Administration in their investigation of the current outbreak of Listeriosis, which has been associated with caramel apples. Bidart Brothers, who is one of Merb’s Candies apple suppliers, has initiated a recall, as there may be a connection between this outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes and apples they supplied Merb’s Candies.

Although no recall has been announced, Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples.  These apples were produced by H. Brooks and supplied indirectly by Bidart Brothers.

The CDC reports this morning that as of December 30, 2014, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 11 states: Arizona (4), California (2), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), Nevada (1), New Mexico (6), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). Dates when the Listeriastrains were isolated range from October 17, 2014, to December 11, 2014. Ten illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). One fetal loss has been reported. Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 32% were female. Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years. Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths, and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE patterns as seen in the US outbreak.  PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

  • Happy Apple reported that it recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility.
  • California Snack Foods issued a voluntary recall of California Snack Foods brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th 2014.
  • Pacific Coast Fruit announced on its website that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples sold to caramel coated candy apple..  Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers. Pacific Coast Fruit Company is now in the process of contacting customers and recalling all Happy Apple brand apples sold after September 22, of 2014.
  • Merb’s Candies is issuing a voluntary recall of the Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples.  Merb’s Candies has been working with the Food and Drug Administration in their investigation of the current outbreak of Listeriosis, which has been associated with caramel apples. Bidart Brothers, who is one of Merb’s Candies apple suppliers, has initiated a recall, as there may be a connection between this outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes and apples they supplied Merb’s Candies.
  • Although no recall has been announced, Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples.  These apples were produced by H. Brooks.

Pink’s Ice Cream LLC of Seattle, WA is recalling all ice cream flavors produced in 2014 with the exception of Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Pink’s Ice Cream was distributed through grocery stores and restaurants around the Puget Sound Area including Uwajimaya and Metropolitan Market in Washington.

The 16 oz. pints of ice cream are sold with a six-digit numerical product code between on the bottom of the product. That six digit code will start with two numbers between 00**** and 52****.  The recall includes all codes within that range with the exclusion of 01**** and 41****.

Bleating Heart Cheese (BHC) is expanding its voluntary recall notice of December 17, 2014 to cover all of its sheep milk, goat milk, water buffalo milk and cows milk cheese produced between February 14, 2014 (coded as 14–0214) and September 19, 2014 (coded as 14-0919) due to an abundance of caution concerning the possibility of Listeria monocytogenes being present in some cheese (see below for a complete list). The codes on the bottom label of all Bleating Heart cheese represent “Year-Month & Day of the Month” when the cheese was produced. At this time, no illnesses have been reported. Consumers that still have the recalled Bleating Heart cheese in their refrigerators should discard it in a manner so it is not consumed.

  1. “Buff Ewe Blue” and “Buff Blue” – natural rind, blue-style cheese, aged 3 – 4 months
  2. “Double Down Blue” – natural rind, blue-style cheese, aged 3 – 4 months with a double heart imprint on the rind
  3. “Ewelicious Blue” – natural rind, blue-style cheese, aged 2 – 3 months
  4. “Fat Bottom Girl” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months
  5. “Funky Beats” – washed rind, aged 2-3 months. Note: this cheese has been sold out for some time and is not likely to be in the market place
  6. “Goldette Tommette” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months
  7. “Mixtress” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months
  8. “Moolicious Blue” – natural rind blue-style cheese, aged 3-4 months
  9. “Shepherdista” – natural rind, aged 2-3 months

I do not always read the warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this one that went to an Asian food processor and distributor based in Brooklyn, New York caught my eye.

On December 9, FDA’s Philadelphia district office sent a letter to New Yung Wah Trading Company in Brooklyn notifying the owners that agency inspectors had allegedly found “significant violations” of Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations for manufacturing, packing, or holding human food at the company’s warehouse in McKees Rocks, PA.

In particular, FDA stated that inspectors had noted an apparently active rodent nest in a box of thawing meat, rodent carcasses along three walls of the facility, gnaw holes and rodent excreta in food cartons, and that “birds were observed flying through the facility and landing and defecating on stored food products.”

In addition, the letter stated that the firm failed: to use rodenticides to prevent contamination of food, food-contact surfaces and food packaging; to have properly installed and maintained plumbing to provide adequate floor drainage in the warehouse; to close up pest-access areas, and to remove litter and waste that may attract pests, among other allegations.

According to news reports, a year into sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division still has yet to start ordering the testing of marijuana for contaminants, something the state of Washington has been doing for nearly six months. Washington State’s test results have shown that 13 percent of marijuana and THC-infused products has failed testing for contaminants for such things as mold, Salmonella and E. coli in Washington.  Apparently, Colorado has struggled to define criteria for contaminant testing and, as of now, only orders testing for potency of marijuana and marijuana products.

Thank goodness for Washington’s testing.  Recently, a friend’s adult kid and friend stayed with us overnight as they traveled around the country. Rowan, our 12-year-old Golden Retriever found their marijuana “edibles” in an unzipped backpack left unattended in the guest room. Although he ate the whole stash, his main reaction was that he slept all day – which he does anyway.  However, he was a bit hungrier when he did get up.

Seattle Times JoNel Aleccia reports that Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream failed a health inspection more than two months before it was shut down last week when two cases of Listeria poisoning were linked by state officials to the Snohomish plant.

Among the problems noted in October: deteriorating floors; excessive dust and “dried, flaking residue” on parts of the pasteurizer vat; “black residue” on metal carts; mold on a bucket used to collect water; standing water in a walk-in cooler; flies; and male workers without facial-hair protection.

The plant, which typically sends 1,000 gallons a day of ice cream, sorbet and gelato to Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, Molly Moon, Seattle’s Space Needle and others, was shut down last week, after the Listeria illnesses were confirmed in two King County men.

The closure followed a Dec. 15 inspection that found “white grime” on fan grates, “black slime” outside a walk-in cooler, and “black build up and hairlike growth” on multiple milk crates used to store utensils and that were within 5 feet of an ice-cream pint filler.

The recalled products are labeled Snoqualmie Ice Cream, Snoqualmie Gelato, Snoqualmie Custard, Snoqualmie Sorbet or Emerald & Spruce Ice Cream or Top Pot Hand Forged Ice Cream. The bottoms of the containers bear production-date codes. The codes for the recalled products either end in the number 4 or contain the actual date of manufacture.

The Lawsuit: We filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Safeway Inc, in the Superior Court of Santa Cruz on behalf of James Raymond Frey, 87, and the estate of his deceased wife, Shirlee Jean Frey, 81, who died tragically on December 2, 2014 after consuming a Listeria-tainted caramel apple purchased at the Safeway in Felton, California. The case number is CISCV180721. The complaint is being amended today to add in two additional parties – Happy Apple and Bidart Brothers.

The Outbreak: According to the CDC and Canadian Public Health, as of December 24, 2014, 31 people in 10 states and two provinces have been reported as being infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes.  The CDC reports that 29 ill people have been hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least five of the deaths.  Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related.  Four illnesses were among otherwise healthy children ages 5 – 15 years. 

The Number Ill and Dead:  Illnesses have been reported in Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), Wisconsin (3) and in Ontario (1) and Manitoba (1), Canada.

The Recall:  From an FDA Christmas Eve Recall NoticeHappy Apples, is issuing a voluntary recall of Happy Apple Brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25th and November 23rd 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.

The Source:  Happy Apple reported that it recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility.

California Snack Foods issued a voluntary recall of California Snack Foods brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  Happy Apples used the last of the Bidart Brothers apples in the first week of November 2014. The caramel apples produced with Bidart Brothers apples should no longer be available in stores, however, out of an abundance of caution and concern for consumer safety, we are recommending that consumers follow the advice of the CDC and remove any caramel apples you may have in storage and dispose of them in a secure container to avoid potential contamination in animals.

Pacific Coast Fruit announced on its website that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples sold to caramel coated candy apple due to potential contamination with Listeria.  Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers. Pacific Coast Fruit Company is now in the process of contacting customers and recalling all Happy Apple brand apples sold after September 22, of 2014.

Although no recall has been announced, Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples.

On Christmas Eve, Happy Apples announced that it had been working with the FDA in its investigation of the current outbreak of Listeriosis that has sickened 31 in the U.S. and Canada, which has been associated with caramel apples. Apparently, Happy Apples recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of the apple suppliers to the California facility that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility.

Today, California Snack Foods issued a voluntary recall of California Snack Foods brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  Happy Apples used the last of the Bidart Brothers apples in the first week of November 2014. The caramel apples produced with Bidart Brothers apples should no longer be available in stores, however, out of an abundance of caution and concern for consumer safety, we are recommending that consumers follow the advice of the CDC and remove any caramel apples you may have in storage and dispose of them in a secure container to avoid potential contamination in animals.

Also today Pacific Coast Fruit announced on its website that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples sold to caramel coated candy apple due to potential contamination with Listeria.  Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers. Pacific Coast Fruit Company is now in the process of contacting customers and recalling all Happy Apple brand apples sold after September 22, of 2014.

Although likely unrelated, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. (“Del Monte Fresh”) announced last week an amendment of its press release dated December 10, 2014 to included in its voluntary recall of fresh cut fruit containing Gala red apples grown in Pennsylvania.  Although no illnesses have been reported to date, Del Monte Fresh voluntarily decided to recall the potentially affected lot. The affected product was distributed to a limited number of customers in a few States in North East US and is being recalled because these apples have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  A total of 3,051 consumer packages containing fresh cut red apples were distributed to Giant Eagle, Amazon Fresh, Sunoco, Peter’s Fruit, Wegmans, Sheetz and 7-Eleven and have “Best If Enjoyed By” dates of 12/3/14, 12/6/14, 12/7/14 and 12/8/14. The fresh cut red apples have a red color skin.  Full recall updated recall notice.

Listeria is Thankfully Rare – About 1,600 people in the US get sick from Listeria germs each year.

However, Listeria is a Killer – Listeria is the 3rd leading cause of death from food poisoning.

Listeria Attacks the Most Vulnerable – At least 90% of people who get Listeria infections are either pregnant women and their newborns, people 65 or older, or people with weakened immune systems.

From an FDA Christmas Eve Recall Notice:  Happy Apples, is issuing a voluntary recall of Happy Apple Brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25th and November 23rd 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.

As has been reported in the news, the Center for Disease Control has noted 29 illnesses in 10 states linked to the outbreak and they have advised consumers not to eat commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples until more is known.  Canada has also reported two likely Listeria illnesses.

Happy Apple reported that it recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Happy Apples in 2007 agreed to pay $599,000 to settle federal charges following the raid by federal agents. Federal authorities said the company had employed dozens of people illegally for more than five years.

Commercial, pasteurized ice cream outbreaks are really quite rare – see Outbreak Database.

Yesterday, Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream, Inc. issued a voluntary recall of all ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet for all flavors and container sizes produced on or after January 1, 2014 until December 15, 2014 because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The voluntary recall was initiated based on the confirmation positive result of Listeria monocytogenes in the samples collected within the production facility and analyzed by Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA).  However, today the Washington State Department of Health (WSDH), confirmed that at least two people – both men in their 50’s have been hospitalized in Seattle with Listeria infections linked to the recalled ice cream.

The ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet were distributed in Arizona, Idaho, California, Oregon, and Washington may have been further distributed and sold in various retail outlets in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The products are labeled Snoqualmie Ice Cream, Snoqualmie Gelato, Snoqualmie Custard, Snoqualmie Sorbet or Emerald & Spruce Ice Cream or Top Pot Hand Forged Ice Cream and have a production date code located on the bottom of the container.  The date codes included either end in “4”, e.g. XXX4 (pints and cups) or are listed by date: January 1, 2014 through December 15, 2014 (trays & tubs).