October 18, 2017

Missouri Links Were Central to Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak

Five Missouri residents were confirmed as case patients in the Listeria caramel apple outbreak and two Missouri food companies were involved in key recalls of caramel apples that they distributed around the country. Only one other state besides Missouri had more than five listeriosis victims in the outbreak and one of the state’s recalls covered caramel apples made by a Missouri company for Kroger stores in many different parts of the country. From the outset of public awareness of this outbreak in mid- to late-December, Missouri citizens and companies were in the discussion.

Missouri Listeria Lawsuit in caramel apple outbreakOn December 24, 2014, the Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri, issued a  recall of many Happy Apple Brand caramel apples because they had the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Some of the apples also were candy-coated with sprinkles and other confections. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores in Missouri and 30 other states.

Happy Apple also recalled Kroger Brand caramel and candy apples that were sold in Kroger stores in 14 states, including Missouri. Kroger brand caramel apples produced by Happy Apple were sold in single packs and three packs; produced in Missouri with a best-use-by date between September 15 and November 18.

On December 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri, recalled Merb’s Candies brand Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples because they had the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. According to the FDA recall notice, Merb’s Bionic Apples and Merb’s Double Dipped Apples were available for retail sales at St. Louis area locations, through local supermarkets and through mail orders nationwide.

Pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples started making people sick in mid-October and the biggest onset of illnesses happened in November, according to a chart made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the initial traceback investigation to find the origin of the caramel apples eaten by 11 case patients, it was discovered that Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies were both supplied by California-based apple packer, Bidart Bros. California Snack Foods, maker of the Karm’l Dapple brand was the other maker of caramel apples that issued an early recall.

Caramel apple Listeria lawsuits have been filed in California and New Mexico. The New Mexico action was filed against Bidart Bros. and a retailer that sold contaminated caramel apples to the family member of an expecting mother in Albuquerque. Of the 35 people in 12 states who were confirmed as case patients in this outbreak, 11 were pregnancy related. Seven case patients died and listeriosis contributed to at least three of those deaths. The California Listeria lawsuit is related to one of the deaths. Three of the cases involved Listeria in young people who suffered invasive meningitis.

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