According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are 37 confirmed cases of Listeria illness in 12 states and Canada, all linked to the Bidart Apples used to make caramel apples and sold during the holiday season late in 2014. The CDC has been working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pinpoint the source of the Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis), and has so far pinpointed Bidart Bros.’s Gala and Granny Smith apples as the source of the wide-spread outbreak. Listeria lawyer Ron Simon, who represents Listeria victims in this outbreak and who has represented thousands of food poisoning victims in the last decade, warns potential victims that Listeria hospitalizes nearly 85% of the confirmed victims in reported outbreaks, and can be fatal. The elderly and very young, as well as people with weak immune systems, are at increased risk. Listeria is also uniquely dangerous to pregnant women – pregnant women composed at least 11 of the victims in this outbreak, and according to the CDC, all known victims were hospitalized.
According to the CDC, the outbreak was identified when individual illnesses, sharing an onset date-range of October 17, 2014, to January 6, 2015, were observed by local medical professionals and the resulting positive laboratory tests uploaded into PulseNet, the national subtyping network which is run by the CDC but used by state and local health departments and agencies for monitoring foodborne illness and other communicable pathogens. The Listeria cultures were taken from the victims and subjected to pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). These procedures are utilized to provide highly accurate “DNA fingerprints” of a bacterial culture, enabling researchers and investigators to identify anyone who has become ill with Listeriosis as a match to a particular outbreak. During the analysis of the victims in the Bidart Bros. caramel apple outbreak, two distinct strains of Listeriosis were identified. The two “clusters” were deemed linked as one victim was infected with both strains.
The victims, encompassing at the low end one 7 year old and at the upper end one 92 year old, included two victims in Canada and 5 victims in Arizona, 3 in California, 1 in Colorado, 4 in Minnesota, 5 in Missouri, 1 in Nevada, 6 in New Mexico, 1 in North Carolina, 4 in Texas (where Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon is headquartered), 1 in Utah, 1 in Washington, and 3 in Wisconsin. At least three cases of invasive illnesses, or meningitis, have been reported among the children identified in this outbreak. Seven deaths have been reported, though it remains to be seen what role listeriosis played in these deaths.
Investigation Ongoing as Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon Files Lawsuit
The investigation was able to identify the source fairly early-on, says Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon, with reportedly 28 of 31 interviewed victims indentifying the commercially produced and packaged caramel apples made by various producers, including Happy Apples, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. But it was also helpful that the other victims who did not eat caramel apples had consumed green apples prior to becoming ill, pointing investigators to the apples as the primary source, and note h caramel used in the production of the apples. Given how quickly investigators were able to start pinpointing the source, manufacturer recalls were issued by late December:
• December 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri recalls caramel apples with a best-by date between August 25 and November 23, 2014
• On December 31, 2014, Happy Apple Company expands the recall to include Kroger brand caramel apples with a best-by date between September 15 and November 18
• On December 27, 2014, California Snack Foods recalls Karm’l Dapple caramel apples with a best-by date between August 15 and November 28, 2014
• On December 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri recalls Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples produced or sold between September 8 and November 25, 2014
And following positive environmental testing at Bidart Bros. (who supplies the apples to the manufacturers), there was little remaining doubt of the origin by January 6, 2015, the day Bidart Bros. issued a recall of its Granny Smith and Gala apples originating in its Shafter, California, packing facility during 2014. By the 8th, the FDA had confirmed that the PFGE of Listeria isolates taken at Bidart Bros. facility were indistinguishable from the stool and blood cultures taken from victims.
On January 14th, Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon filed a lawsuit on behalf of California residents, Darlene and Francis Vouri. Darlene was hospitalized for more than a month due to severe listeriosis poisoning after consuming Happy Apples from a local Wal-Mart in Rocklin, California. Listeria lawyer Ron Simon represents other victims in this outbreak, as well as victims in other outbreaks who suffer from salmonellosis, E. coli, or other food borne pathogen related illness.