The Bug: About 1,600 people in the US get sick from Listeria germs each year. Listeria is the 3rd leading cause of death from food poisoning. At least 90% of people who get Listeria infections are either pregnant women or their newborns, people 65 or older, or people with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, or develops fever and chills after eating commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about any history of eating those caramel apples. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food.
The Outbreak: According to the CDC and Canadian Public Health, as of December 24, 2014, 31 people in 10 states and two provinces have been reported as being infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes. The CDC reports that 29 ill people have been hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least five of the deaths. Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related. Four illnesses were among otherwise healthy children ages 5 – 15 years.
The Number Ill and Dead: Illnesses have been reported in Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), Wisconsin (3) and in Ontario (1) and Manitoba (1), Canada. Deaths have been reported in California (1), Minnesota (2), Missouri (1) and Texas (1).
The Recall: From an FDA Christmas Eve Recall Notice: Happy Apples, is issuing a voluntary recall of Happy Apple Brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25th and November 23rd 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.
The Source: Happy Apple reported that it recently received notice from Bidart Brothers, one of its apple suppliers to the Orosi California facility, that there may be 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 with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th 2014, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Happy Apples used the last of the Bidart Brothers apples in the first week of November 2014. The caramel apples produced with Bidart Brothers apples should no longer be available in stores, however, out of an abundance of caution and concern for consumer safety, we are recommending that consumers follow the advice of the CDC and remove any caramel apples you may have in storage and dispose of them in a secure container to avoid potential contamination in animals.
Pacific Coast Fruit announced on its website that it was made aware that Bidart Brothers was recalling apples sold to caramel coated candy apple due to potential contamination with Listeria. Happy Apples purchased apples from Bidart Brothers and Pacific Coast Fruit in turn distributed Happy Apples to Pacific Coast Fruit customers. Pacific Coast Fruit Company is now in the process of contacting customers and recalling all Happy Apple brand apples sold after September 22, of 2014.
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 is being amended today to add in two additional parties – Happy Apple and Bidart Brothers.
The Law Firm: 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.