The Outbreak: The CDC reports 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). 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.
The Recall: The FDA has traced the distribution of the caramel apples to Bidart Brothers from California. Although the Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies received apples from other growers, the FDA’s ongoing traceback investigation has confirmed that Bidart Brothers is the only apple grower that supplied apples to both companies. Bidart Brothers apples have been the common denominator as the source of apples used in the production of caramel apples implicated in the latest illnesses and deaths.
- Happy Apple reported that it received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi, California facility, that there is 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 that they received from Bidart Brothers.
- Pacific Coast Fruit announced last week that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples. Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers.
- Merb’s Candies issued a recall of the Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples. Bidart Brothers, who was one of Merb’s Candies apple suppliers, has initiated a recall.
- 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 Lawsuit: Marler Clark, the nation’s only law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, has 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 to add in two additional parties – Happy Apple and Bidart Brothers.
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.