As the number of illnesses increased to 32 from Listeria in caramel apples, clues emerged regarding the source of the original contamination.
◦ Three voluntary recalls of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples have been announced by Happy Apples, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies after hearing from Bidart Brothers, an apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this listeriosis outbreak.
◦ Investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses.
◦ CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers do 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.
◦ Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.
• As of December 30, 2014, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 11 states.
◦ Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.
◦ 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 US outbreak.
JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times reports that all of the retailers said they were issuing recalls after learning that Bidart Bros., a Bakersfield, Calif., apple producer, had voluntarily recalled fresh apples because they may be contaminated with listeria. In a letter to suppliers dated Dec. 22, company president Leonard A. Bidart said the firm had consulted with the federal Food and Drug Administration and California public health officials.
“Out of an abundance of caution tempered by our deep concern for public safety, we are instituting a recall of the processor apples we shipped to you during the 2014 season,” the letter said. However, no formal notification of the Bidart recall has been issued by the FDA or the California Department of Public Health.
In the Northwest, the Bidart move forced the recall of about 220 cases of prepackaged caramel apples distributed by Pacific Coast Fruit Company, said Ted Hendryx, executive vice president.