California Apple Processing Plant Linked To Listeria Outbreak

A California apple plant was linked to a Listeria outbreak which sickened 31 people between October 2014 and January 9, 2015. The United States Food and Drug Administration confirmed samples collected from Bidart Bros. apple processing plant tested positive for two strains of the deadly bacteria.

As reported by the FDA, the strains “are believed to be the same strains associated with the outbreak.” In late 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined a majority of those infected had consumed “prepackaged caramel apples.”

The CDC has identified three brands of caramel apples linked to the Listeria outbreak: Happy Apple, Carnival and Merb’s Candies. Although a majority of those people infected with Listeria monocytogenes ate those specific brands, the investigation into the incident is not complete.

The FDA reports that Bidart Bros. supplied apples to all three companies. As a result, the apple processor issued a voluntary recall of “all Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from the company’s Shafter, California packing facility in 2014.”

Listeriosis is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms may include chills, diarrhea, fever, gastrointestinal distress, and muscle aches. Although Listeria is treatable, it can be fatal in the elderly, in pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

In late 2014, the FDA warned consumers against consuming any commercially-produced prepackaged whole caramel apples. However, in their most recent update, the FDA said, “The recalled caramel apples should no longer be available for purchase in stores.”

The latest warning is limited to Granny Smith and Gala apples produced by Bidart Bros. As the apples are sold under numerous brands, the FDA recommends verifying the supplier before purchasing Granny Smith and Gala apples.

Consumers who previously purchased the recalled apples or caramel apples are urged to dispose of the products and disinfect their kitchens. The FDA provides instructions for effective disinfection.

“Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.”

In an official statement, Bidart Bros. assured consumers that their California plant suspended production on December 3. President Leonard Bidart said the company is “committed… to cooperating completely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the California Department of Public Health” to resolve the issue.

Bidart said he and his family are “devastated” that their apples were linked to the listeria outbreak.

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