According to FDA’s form 483, inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes bacteria at the Bidart Brothers packing house. A multistate outbreak of Listeria was linked to commercially produced caramel apples made from that company’s produce.
The report, based on inspections conducted on December 23, 24, and 29 in 2014 and on January 6, 2015 states “during an inspection of your firm we observed food that has been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been contaminated with filthy, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health.” The inspectors were officials form the FDA and the California Department of Public Health.
FDA inspectors collected 110 environmental swabs from food and non-food contact surfaces in the packaging area, common cold storage, and bins stored outside. They found seven confirmed positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Six of those sites are direct food contact surfaces.
In addition, a damaged conveyer belt and chipping/peeling paint was on the transfer chute on the Granny’s Best packing line, and frayed edges and exposed foam-line material was on the lining on the transfer chute to the peeler.
Green vinyl coating was separating away from the padding, exposing foam-like material on the entrance to packaging Candy Apple, torn and cracked padded flat was on the end of packaging, cracked vinyl coating and exposed material on bump pad at the of packaging for Candy Apple, and the bucket conveyer on Candy Appe made of canvas material had frayed edges and metal staples.
The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Bidart Brothers apples sickened 35 people in 12 states. Thirty-four of those patients were hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported. Eleven illnesses were related to pregnancy; one pregnant women suffered a fetal loss. Illness onset dates ranged from October 17, 2014 to January 6, 2015.
Bidart Brothers eventually recalled all of their Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from the company’s Shafter, California packing facility in 2015. There were recalls of caramel apples made by Happy Apple, Merb’s Candies, and California Snack Foods.