The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the source of a recent Listeria outbreak linked to caramel covered apples as the Bidart Bros. packing facility, this after trace-back results indicated that as many as 28 of the 32 confirmed cases of Listeria monocytogenes were linked to commercially packaged caramel covered apples. The trace-back investigation led investigators to finger Bidart Brothers after the results of the trace-back investigation revealed that the caramel apples that made the 32 individuals sick did not originate from a single producer of caramel covered apples. This quickly eliminated the possibility that the Listeria bacteria had been introduced into the stream of commerce by a single caramel apple producer. Obviously, the source of the Listeria was further up-stream with a common supplier – among the producers of caramel covered apples implicated in this Listeria outbreak are at least Happy Apple, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies. Investigators then thoroughly reviewed Happy Apple, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies’ suppliers to isolate at least one common supplier where the Listeria bacteria could have come from. Investigators looked at all sorts of supplies, including caramel and other common ingredients, but in the end identified apples as a common element – apples from a common source. That common source turned out to be Bidart Brothers packing, a supplier of Gala and Granny Smith apples, who had supplied common lots of apples to all three producers of caramel apples (some of the caramel apple producers had more than one supplier, but all received at least some apples from Bidart Brothers, and that common element provided the basis for an inspection of Bidart facilities).
The trace-back investigation placed the source squarely at the Bidart Brother facilities in California. And while a trace-back investigation is scientifically sound evidence of a pathogen’s origin, the CDC, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state health agencies (in this case, the California Department of Public health (CDPH) took the lead among state agencies), always attempt to establish an epidemiological link to a potential source of a food borne illness outbreak. Often, this step is not feasible as food has been destroyed, or for some other reason is no longer available for testing. In this situation, however, because of the rapid identification of Bidart Brothers, investigators arrived on the scene at the Bidart Brother facilities while the product and packing facility was still available for timely testing. The test results confirmed the existence of the outbreak strains of Listeria associated with this outbreak. Such evidence is conclusive proof that the Listeria originated at the Bidart Brothers facilities, was transmitted via their apples, and then used in the making of caramel covered apples by at least Happy Apple, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies.
So far the CDC has identified 32 people in 11 states, though they have not updated this count in nearly 10 days (since January 9th). The states impacted include California, Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin – but the most affected are in the regional belt that includes Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The infected apples were disseminated under the brand names Big B and Granny’s Best, though branding might not have been available or may have been under another name. Among the major companies to recall their caramel covered apples were Happy Apple, Kroger, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies. Other major chains, such as HEB, have told reporters that they either had no Bidart Brother apples in stock or had not had any since November 16th, and other retailers, including Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s said have stated that Bidart Brothers is not one of their company’s suppliers.
In addition to 32 confirmed cases of listeriosis, 7 reported deaths, and one fetal loss, the economic losses are also expected to be great. The recalls and negative publicity has reportedly caused economic damage to producers of caramel apples, and in some cases, may even lead to a reduction in the purchase of US grown apples abroad. According to Malaysia’s Agriculture Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysia will temporarily stop importing some US apples that may have been infected by Listeria. According to the Malaysian minister, US health officials notified his nation that some Gala and Granny Smith apples from California had been implicated in a Listeriosis outbreak – telling reporters that “the ministry will stop the import of the affected apples while the Health Ministry will check those already in the local market.” So far, at least two additional cases of listeriosis have been reported outside the US, in Canada.
The Listeria lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates have already filed the first lawsuit on behalf of victims they represent, and may file additional lawsuits as necessary. This first caramel apple Listeria lawsuit was filed on behalf of a California woman in California State Court. If you or a loved one became ill after eating this apples, feel free to call the Listeria lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates at 1-888-335-4901 to discuss important legal rights you may have.