Over the last three weeks three companies have issued voluntary recalls of caramel apples because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  These companies are:

  • Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri
  • California Snack Foods, of El Monte, California
  • Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri

Each company reported receiving notice from Bidart Bros., an apple supplier headquartered in Bakersfield, California, that there may be a connection between the listeriosis outbreak and the apples supplied to them by Bidart Bros.

Investigating agencies have traced the distribution of the caramel apples eaten by eight ill people involved in the outbreak.  Although the Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies receive apples from other growers, the ongoing traceback investigation has confirmed that Bidart Bros. is the only apple grower that supplied apples to both companies.

On December 22, 2014, the FDA and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) briefed Bidart Bros. on the status of the investigation.  On December 22, 2014, Bidart Bros. issued a recall of Granny Smith apples it sold in 2014 to those customers known to produce caramel apples.  Then, on December 24, 2014, Bidart Bros. notified all customers receiving Granny Smith apples in 2014 to recall those apples if they had been used to make caramel apples.

On December 23, 2014, FDA and CDPH activated the California Food Emergency Response Team (CalFERT), a team comprised of CDPH and FDA specialists who rapidly respond to food emergencies in California. CalFERT conducted a joint investigation of the firm.  The team took environmental samples, swabbing surfaces likely to come into contact with apples.  Analyses of the samples revealed that several of these samples contained Listeria monocytogenes. CalFERT shared these laboratory results with Bidart Bros. on January 5, 2015.

On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. sent letters to its distributors, expanding its voluntary recall.  Bidart Bros. is recalling all Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from the company’s Shafter, California packing facility in 2014.

On January 8, 2015, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of the Listeria monocytogenes isolated from environmental samples collected at Bidart Bros. confirmed that the PFGE patterns, or DNA fingerprints, of the pathogen matched the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from people affected by the outbreak. Listeria monocytogenes matching the outbreak strains, by PFGE type, also was isolated from samples of Bidart Bros. whole apples collected along the distribution chain by FDA and state investigators in December 2014.

On January 9, 2015, Bidart Bros. issued a news release announcing the recall and reporting that December 2, 2015, was the last shipment date for the company’s apples.

As of January 10, 2015, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes had 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 seven deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of these deaths. Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss. Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak.

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.