Minnesota's response to a caramel apple Listeria outbreak that killed two state residents included early public alerts identifying the caramel apple brands that may have contributed to the spread of disease. No other state in the 12-state outbreak was as thorough and open with consumers about what foods to avoid in order to stay clear of the outbreak. The state had reason to be proactive because Listeria monocytogenes was confirmed in four state residents who were all hospitalized with the exact same strain of the pathogen.
In addition, a Minnesota law firm sued the company responsible for the outbreak. The caramel apple Listeria lawsuit brought by PritzkerOlsen Attorneys of Minneapolis is pending in U.S. District Court on behalf of a mother and her baby. Doctors said the baby was born prematurely because the mother contracted listeriosis from eating a contaminated caramel apple. The litigation is based on the findings of the Minnesota Department of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health. According to the CDC, the same strain of Listeria that made people sick was found in the apple-packing facility of Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California.
The Listeria apple lawsuit against Bidart Bros. was filed weeks after the company recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples on January 6. Bidart notified its customers, including makers of caramel apples, of the potential contamination. In Minnesota, the Department of Health already had said that case patients in the outbreak had purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike's Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples.
Later, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said the following brands of caramel apples were produced in Minnesota in 2014 using Bidart Brothers apples. Those Minnesota brands were Aamodt’s, Abdallah, Angeli Foods, Candy Jar, Carnival, Celebration, Circle K, Finnottes, Grandma Bev’s, Jerry’s Foods, Karamel King, Kowalski’s Markets, Kitchen Cravings, Lunds & Byerly’s, Supermom’s, and Wescott. These brands were also sold in North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. In addition to caramel, the apples may be covered with toppings such as nuts and chocolate, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said. Caramel apple Listeria illnesses also were confirmed in Wisconsin.