April 24, 2018

Caramel Apple Lawsuit Filed in New Mexico

National food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen, P.A. filed a lawsuit for a mother and baby sickened in the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples.

Caramel ApplesIn late October of 2014, a member of Cathy Jone’s family purchased several prepackaged caramel apples from the Smith’s store located at 4016 Louisiana Boulevard Northeast, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cathy Jones, pregnant at the time, ate one.

On November 7, she began to feel ill. On November 8, her son was born several months prematurely. The baby was diagnosed with Listeria monocytogenes. He stayed in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit for over four weeks.

Health officials from the New Mexico Department of Health performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing on the sample of Listeria monocytogenes taken from Cathy Jone’s son. The PFGE pattern (a bacterial DNA “fingerprint”) matched a strain of the bacteria that has sickened others in 11 states. This outbreak has been linked to caramel apples made with apples supplied by Bidart Brothers.

The lawsuit alleges the caramel apple purchased at Smith’s and eaten by Cathy Jones was made with a Bidart Bros. apple contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected a unique genetic pattern of Listeria monocytogenes among listeriosis patients in November and December of 2014. It launched an investigation to determine the source of the outbreak. They soon determined that more than one strain of Listeria monocytogenes was linked to eating packaged caramel apples.

Patients and their families were interviewed to find food consumption histories. Analysis of these found a strong association with commercially produced prepackaged caramel apples. Brands associated with the outbreak include Carnival, Happy Apple and Merb’s.

On January 8, 2015, FDA laboratory analyses showed that Listeria isolates from the Bidart Bros. facility and from apple samples were indistinguishable from outbreak strains of the bacteria. In response to this finding, Bidart recalled all of its Granny Smith and Gala apples.

There are a total of 32 people from 11 states infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes: 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 of those patients  have been hospitalized, and seven of them died (not all from Listeria, according to the CDC).

The lawsuit was filed against Bidart Bros. and Smith’s Food & Drug Centers, Inc., owned by Kroger. Attorneys Brendan Flaherty and Ryan Osterholm, along with local counsel, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court of the District of New Mexico on Friday, January 9, 2015 (case number 1:15-cv-00019).

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