The traceback investigation confirmed the apple supplier, based in Bakersfield, California, is the only one that supplied apples to the Happy Apple Company and Merb’s Candies, said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The companies, along with California Snack Foods, of El Monte, California, have issued voluntary recalls of caramel apples.
Listeria isolated from environmental samples
FDA laboratory analyses showed that environmental Listeria isolates from the Bidart Bros. facility were indistinguishable from outbreak strains by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
The agency said test results confirm two strains were found at the apple processing facility and are believed to be those associated with the outbreak.
Those same strains were also found in Bidart Bros. apples collected from a retailer by the FDA.
Leonard Bidart, president at Bidart Bros, said the results are devastating to the family.
“As a family-owned grower operating in California since the 1930s, we place safety at the forefront of everything we do. Our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by the apple-related listeriosis outbreak.
“From the moment we learned of the issue, we committed ourselves to cooperating completely with the US Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the California Department of Public Health.”
The company has recalled all Bidart Bros. Granny Smith and Gala apples still in the marketplace.
Bidart Bros. last shipped Granny Smith apples to customers on December 2, 2014.
In its latest update (January 10) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 32 people have been infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes from 11 states.
Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and seven deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of these.
Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related with one illness resulting in a fetal loss and three meningitis cases were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.
To date, 25 (89%) of the 28 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.
The three ill people who did not report eating caramel apples did eat whole or sliced green apples not covered in caramel but the source remains unknown, said CDC.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified two cases of listeriosis with the same DNA fingerprints, or pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, as seen in the US outbreak.
There is one case in Ontario and one in Manitoba but the status of these individuals is not known, said the agency.
Recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples may have been sold under other brand names or without a brand name at all, such as in bulk
Caramel apple products could have a shelf life of one month, whereas that of Granny Smith and Gala apples varies depending on the environment they are stored in.