For additional details, please see "CDC says listeria at Bidart Bros. facility is same as outbreak"
Bidart Bros. has expanded an apple recall to include all granny smith and galas shipped from its Shafter, Calif., facility in 2014 — not just ones sent to caramel apple marketers implicated in a listeria recall.
“Several” samples collected at the Bidart Bros. apple packing facility tested positive for listeria monocytogenes, but additional tests are ongoing to determin if it is the same strain of the pathogen that has killed six and sickened at least 34 people in the U.S. and Canada.
The Food and Drug Administration released the test results Jan. 8 after having notified Bidart Bros. three days earlier.
The FDA reported the company recalled granny smith apples Dec. 22, but the recall was limited to customers Bidart officials knew produced caramel apples.
The listeria outbreak, which began in October and is ongoing, was initially linked to caramel apples only. However, after the positive results for the pathogen at Bidart’s Shafter packing facility, nationwide recalls are in effect in the U.S. and Canada on all of the gala and granny smith apples packed there in 2014.
Leonard Bidart, president of the family-owned company, issued a written statement Jan. 8.
“Bidart Bros. places safety at the forefront of everything we do,” he said in the statement. “Our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by the apple-related listeriosis outbreak. ... the company has extensive, time-tested best practices within its facilities to address contamination-related issues.
“In September 2014 Bidart Bros. was given an acceptable rating by the USDA following its latest inspection. Yet, as a result of these latest findings, Bidart will review all of its procedures to ensure that its products are safe.”
Although tests showed listeria present in the packing facility, the FDA is “continuing its investigation into whether there are common sources of caramel, caramel ingredients, sticks, or packaging,” according to the Jan. 8 update.
Apple industry leaders continue to point to the track record of whole, fresh apples and applauded Bidart Bros. actions.
“Food safety is priority number one for the U.S. apple industry,” said Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association. “(We are) pleased that Bidart Bros. has, in a precautionary effort, issued a voluntary recall of its gala and granny smith apples.”
Bidart Bros. had no varieties other than granny smith and gala in its facility, Bair said.
Whole and sliced "green" apples that did not have caramel were eaten by three of the listeria victims in the U.S. before they became ill, according to a Jan. 8 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The source of these apples is unknown, and it is unknown whether these apples are linked to the patients' illnesses," according to the CD update.
Two listeria cases in Canada have been linked to caramel apples, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. None of the deaths linked to caramel and candy apples were in Canada.
The Canadian recall listed importers of the recalled apples as including Beauvais Ltee., Courchesne Larose and Coosemans Montreal Inc..
"Only apples exported by Bidart Bros. are affected by this recall,” according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall. “Recalled products may have been sold under other brand names besides (Granny’s Best and Big B) or without a brand name at all, such as in bulk.”
In the U.S., the Happy Apple Co. expanded its recall Dec. 31 to include Kroger-branded caramel and candy apples, even though the best by date had passed six weeks earlier.
Produced by Happy Apple Co., Washington, Mo., the Kroger caramel apples were distributed to retailers in single- and three-packs across 14 states, according to the recall notice posted by FDA. The apples were sent to Arizona, Alaska, Kansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Happy Apple Co., California Snack Foods, El Monte, Calif., and Merb’s Candies, St. Louis, all recalled caramel and candy apples in December after Bidart Bros. notified them that its granny smith apples might be contaminated with listeria.
A New Year’s Eve update from FDA reported there is an epidemiological link connecting the outbreak to apples from Bidart Brothers.
“The FDA has traced the distribution of the caramel apples eaten by eight ill people involved in the outbreak,” according to the Dec. 31 FDA update.
“Although the Happy Apple Co. and Merb’s Candies receive apples from other growers, the FDA’s ongoing traceback investigation has confirmed that Bidart Bros. is the only apple grower that supplied apples to both companies.”