An outbreak of the listeria bacteria, which has sickened 32 people across the United States and killed at least three, has been linked to a California apple packing facility, Bidart Bros.’s packing facility in Shafter, California, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
The FDA and the California Department of Public Health inspected the packing facility in Shafter after learning the company had supplies apples to the manufacturers of caramel apples that had made people sick. The two agencies, in their join investigation, found strains of the listeria bacteria on surfaces in the plant which “were likely to come into contact with apples,” the Associated Press reported via a report published on Fox10 News.
On Saturday, the FDA confirmed that the DNA patterns of the listeria bacteria discovered in the apple packing plant had been identified as a match to the listeria that had made people sick.
Listeria is a foodborne illness which is especially dangerous to women who are pregnant, newborn babies, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. In healthy people, listeria rarely causes serious illness and can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle aches.
Earlier this week, the California-based Bidart Bros. company recalled all shipments from their facility in Shafter of Granny Smith and Gala apples. The company indicated that the last shipment of apples from that location were shipped on December 2, 2014.
The illnesses and deaths have been linked to the consumption of caramel apples.
Health officials warned consumers back in December to avoid all prepackaged caramel apples after deaths and illnesses were reported in 11 states across the country.
Leonard Bidart, president of Bidart Bros., released a statement in which he said that the news on this incident has been “devastating” to the Bidart family, Scientific American reported.
As a family-owned grower operating in California since the 1930s, we place safety at the forefront of everything we do […] Our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by the apple-related listeriosis outbreak.
Bidart Bro.’s president, Leonard, indicated that the company is “cooperating completely” with the government’s investigation.
The agencies involved in the investigation also found the same strains of the deadly bacteria in whole apples that had been shipped to other companies down the distribution chain.
The FDA indicated that some of the apples recalled by the company may be sold under the brand names “Granny’s Best” and “Big B,” although they may be sold under other brand names or possibly, with no brand at all.
Happy Apple, Merb’s Candies, California Snack Foods, and Kroger, all caramel apple brands, have also issue recalls as the result of the listeria outbreak.
Illnesses and deaths as a result of the tainted apples were reported in California, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, Utah, North Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, and Arizona.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that 25 of those who were stroke ill had reported consumption of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples prior to getting sick. Regardless of the relation to caramel apples in particular, the FDA warned consumers who had recently purchased Gala or Granny Smith apples to check with retailers whether the apples were supplied by the Bidart Bros company.
In an update published Saturday by the CDC, seven people who had contracted the strains of listeria had died. The agency indicated that listeria had been known to have contributed to at least three of the seven deaths. At this time, it is unclear how many deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
When’s the last time you ate a caramel apple?