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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

CDC Warns Do Not Eat Prepackaged Caramel Apples After 5 Listeria Deaths

Listeria illnesses and deaths in Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (2).

As of December 18, 2014, a total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states.  26 ill people have been hospitalized. Among the 26 people hospitalized, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths.  Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant).  Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

The information CDC has at this time indicates that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.   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. Although limited information is currently available about the specific brand(s) of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples consumed, the finding that most of the ill people reported consuming these apples suggests that these Listeria infections are likely related to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Investigators are rapidly working to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided. These products could have a shelf life of more than one month.

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

Apples and a Recent History of Listeria

With at least two deaths in four hospitalizations reported by Team Diarrhea of the Minnesota Department of Public Health linked to caramel apples, and the likelihood of a nationwide Listeria outbreak in the offing, I thought it would be useful to see the FDA’s treatment of recent past apple/Listeria combinations.

December 11, 2014 – Giant Eagle has issued a recall of Giant Eagle Apple Pistachio Salad and Apple Pistachio Salad with Chicken because the salads may contain fresh cut Gala red apples currently recalled by Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. To date, Giant Eagle has received no reports of customer illnesses associated with this recall.  http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/ucm426704.htm

November 14, 2013 – Crunch Pak® of Cashmere, Washington is voluntarily recalling 5,471 cases of Crunch Pak® Apple Slices due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported in association with this recall to date. No other Crunch Pak® products are affected by this recall. FDA is aware that the company is undertaking this voluntary action.  http://www.fda.gov/food/recallsoutbreaksemergencies/recalls/ucm375135.htm

November 7, 2013 – Garden-Fresh Foods has initiated an expansion of previous recalls of fresh cut vegetables, ready-to eat salads, slaws, dips and spreads sold under various brands and code dates manufactured prior to November 06, 2013. All packaging types and sizes are included. The company has not received reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products, however anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider.  http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/archiverecalls/2013/ucm374295.htm

December 8, 2012 – Freshway Foods is voluntarily recalling 6,671 pounds of sliced apples that were packaged on November 12 using the same packaging machine, which may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. A table of recalled consumer pack products, their respective use-by-dates and the states to which the company shipped them is provided below. No illnesses have been linked to this recall.  http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/ucm331564.htm

August 10, 2012 – Missa Bay, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ready Pac Foods, Inc., of Swedesboro, New Jersey is voluntarily recalling a total of 293,488 cases and 296,224 individually distributed units of fruit, vegetable, and sandwich products containing apples, as listed below, with the Use‐by dates of July 8, 2012 through August 20, 2012 because they contain diced or sliced apples which may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm315249.htm

August 6, 2012 – Reichel Foods, Inc. of Rochester, Minnesota is voluntarily recalling a limited amount of Dippin’ Stix Sliced Apples & Caramel with Peanuts and Armour Active Packs Cheese Pizza Lunch Kits because they have 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. No illnesses have been reported to date. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm314587.htm

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

If you or a family member became ill with a Listeria infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Listeria attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Minnesota Health, Agriculture Officials Investigate Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples

Two deaths linked – Pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems are most at risk

The Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis linked to eating caramel apples.

Four people in Minnesota have become ill as part of this outbreak. All were adults ages 59 to 90 years. They became ill in late October and November. All were hospitalized and two died.

Health officials are warning consumers who may have purchased any pre-packaged, commercially-produced caramel apples, including caramel apples with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate, and sprinkles, to not eat them until more information from the investigation becomes available.

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 two brands are no longer available for purchase at retail locations; however, health officials are concerned that persons who purchased them may still have them in their homes. The investigation is evolving, and other caramel apple brands and locations may also be impacted. Minnesota officials are working with national partners to determine the scope of products impacted. Consumers should not eat any brands of commercially-produced pre-packaged caramel apples until additional information is available. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not pre-packaged.

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease affects primarily older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and persons with weakened immune systems. On average, seven cases of listeriosis are reported in Minnesota each year. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Symptoms begin from 3 to 70 days after consuming the bacteria.

Anyone who believes they may have become ill with listeriosis should contact their health care provider.

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

Listeria Recall: Bleating Heart Cheese

Bleating Heart Cheese (BHC) is conducting a voluntary recall of a few of its sheep milk and cow’s milk cheese produced in late May, late June and early July of 2014, based on sampling by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in at least one sample of the following cheeses. At this time, no illnesses have been reported, but to reduce possible health risks and ensure that all suspect product is removed from the marketplace, BHC is initiating this voluntary recall in cooperation with the California Departments of Food & Agriculture and Public Health.

  1. Ewelicious Blue” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0618 on the bottom side of the label
  2. Fat Bottom Girl” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0702 on the bottom side of the label
  3. Goldette Tommette” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0527 on the bottom side of the label

These specific cheeses and lot numbers were distributed or sold beginning on October, 2014 to distributors servicing the San Francisco Bay area retail food shops, restaurants and stores. Anyone that has distributed the cheese identified above need to immediately notify their customers of the voluntary recall and instruct them to return any affected cheese to the distributor for a full refund. The cost of the returned cheese will be covered by Bleating Heart Cheese, upon proof of purchase. Any of the above cheese still in a distributor’s inventory needs to isolated/quarantined and prepared for return to Bleating Heart Cheese, which will provide a full refund upon receipt of the cheese and verification of its identity.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, pregnant women 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, stillbirths and fetal infection among pregnant women.