The Outbreak: On December 18, 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health reported four Listeria monocytogenes illnesses. The 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.
On January 10, 2015, the CDC reports, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes had 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). The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak.
- Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and seven deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of these deaths.
- Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss.
- Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.
The Lawsuit: On December 22, 2014, 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 was amended on December 29, 2014 to add in two additional parties – Happy Apple and Bidart Brothers.
The Recalls: On December 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri, voluntarily recalled Happy Apples brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25 and November 23, 2014. On December 31, 2014, Happy Apple Company expanded the recall to include Kroger brand caramel apples produced by Happy Apple Company with a best use by date between September 15 and November 18, 2014.
On December 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15 and November 28, 2014.
On December 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available from September 8 through November 25, 2014.
On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California voluntarily recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility. The recall includes all Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from its Shafter, California packing facility in 2014. CDC recommends that consumers not eat any of the recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples produced by Bidart Bros. and that retailers not sell or serve them.
The Genetic Connection: On January 9, 2015, according to Bidart Bros., the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the results of findings from additional tests performed on samples collected from Bidart Bros. apple processing plant near Bakersfield, California. Test results confirm two strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found at the apple processing facility and are believed to be the same strains associated with the outbreak. Those same strains were also found in Bidart Bros. apples collected from a retailer by the FDA.
The Bug: Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that 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. Approximately 2,500 cases of listeriosis are estimated to occur in the U.S. each year. About 200 in every 1,000 cases result in death.