July 16, 2024

Genetic Link Between Bidart Brothers Apple Facility, Listeria Outbreak

Since December 22, 2014, consumers have been told not to consume any commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apples because of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak associated with those products. As the investigation unfolded, it became clear that Bidart Brothers, an apple packer in California, was the only grower to apply apples to Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies, two recalled brands.

Caramel ApplesAlso on December 22, 2014, Bidart Brothers issued a recall of Granny Smith apples sold to customers who make caramel apples. That recall was expanded on December 24, 2014, to all Bidart Brothers caramel apple-making customers supplied with Granny Smith apples in 2014.

The California Food Emergency Response Team was sent on December 23, 2014 to investigate the outbreak. Environmental samples were taken from Bidart Brother’s apple packing facility and sent to laboratories. Results indicated that Listeria monocytogenes was found in the environmental samples. On January 6, 2015, the recall was expanded to include all Bidart Brothers Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from its packing facility in Shafter, California in the entire 2014 calendar year.

Labs then conducted more extensive genetic tests on the Listeria monocytogenes samples collected at the packing facility and matched them to samples of bacteria taken from sick people. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) tests confirmed that the same bacteria found at the packing facility were the same found in case patients. And the same strain of bacteria was also found in Bidart brothers apples that were collected in the distribution chain.

PFGE is used to generate DNA pieces from bacteria and subjects them to an electric field. This generates a DNA fingerprint that is unique to each bacterial strain. That means that the bacteria that sickened 32 people in this outbreak most likely came from the Bidart Brother’s facility.

Consumers are still advised to avoid eating any commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apples until further notice. The brands that have been recalled in this outbreak include Happy Apple, California Snack Foods, Kroger, and Merb’s Candies. In Minnesota, many brand names are associated with this outbreak, including Lund’s, Byerly’s, and Jerry’s, and were named by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

If you purchased any commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apple, do not eat it. And if you purchased any plain whole Granny Smith or Gala apples shipped by Bidart Brothers, do not eat those either. Some of the brand names of plain apples include “Big B” and “Granny’s Best”, although they may not have a brand name or are sold under other brand names. Ask your grocer if the apples were supplied by Bidart Brothers.

Then clean out the fridge, freezer, or pantry with a mild bleach solution to kill any remaining bacteria. This is necessary because Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can grow at fridge and freezer temperatures.

If you ate any commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apple this fall or winter, or Granny Smith or Gala apples supplied buy Bidart Brothers, monitor yourself for the symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning for 70 days from the date of consumption. Those symptoms include headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches, confusion, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps. The elderly, pregnant women, children, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk for serious illness. If you do get sick, see your doctor immediately.


  1. If the apples are the source of the listeria, I would think that any apples from the company could be contaminated, since listeria was found in the Bidart packing facility. I don’t think I’ll eat any apples until this mess is sorted out. Hope we get the real story, so we can protect ourselves from the deadly Listeria outbreak.

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