May 24, 2024

Caramel Apple Listeria Deaths a Focus of Apple Associations

The California Apple Commission is working with other apple producing states and the U.S. Apple Association regarding the outbreak of listeriosis that state and federal health authorities have associated with commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples. In a December 23 newsletter piece about the deadly caramel apple outbreak, the state-authorized commission recapped some details of the investigation, quoting a CDC document that said  “at this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.”

As the newsletter stated, the investigation is still working to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to the illnesses. So far, three makers of caramel apples have issued food recalls covering the following brands: Karm’l Dapples, Happy Apple and Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples. All three food companies said in their recall announcements that they had received apples from California-based supplier Bidart Brothers.

Carmel Apple Lawsuit“Bidart Brothers, who is one of Merb’s Candies apple suppliers, has initiated a recall as there may be a connection between this outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes and apples they supplied,” Missouri-based Merb’s Candies said in its recall alert.

Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, Calif., is included in the current  “Handler’s List” published by the California Apple Commission. At one time in the 1990s, Bidart Brothers was described as one of California’s major apple producers. The information was contained in a  January 1996 decision by the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in a lawsuit Bidart Brothers filed against the California Apple Commission over taxation/fees. “Bidart grows approximately ten percent of the apples in California,” the court wrote.

The 2014-2015 state apple commission’s “Handler’s List” doesn’t rank Bidart Bros. but it notes that the company produces the Granny Smith variety of apples. California is the fifth largest producer of apples in the United States and the Fresno-based California Apple Commission was founded in 1994 as a state commission by the California Legislature and approved by California apple growers. Though the Commission’s primary function is to promote the purchase of California Apples, the Commission does have the power to make suggestions to the secretary of agriculture about maturity standards, a statutory food code and to conduct production research, according to the Appeals Court decision from 1996.

Of five case patients who have died in the Listeria outbreak, listeriosis contributed to or caused four deaths, the CDC has said. In addition, nine pregnancies or babies have been stricken by the outbreak strain of Listeria and three people have suffered invasive Listeria meningitis, according to the CDC. The federal health agency first reported the outbreak December 19 and is continuing to update illness totals. As of Dec. 29, the totals stood at 29 illnesses in 10 states, including Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Wisconsin.

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