Inspector’s observations published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveal that seven sampling sites at an apple processing facility implicated in a multistate listeriosis outbreak in late 2014 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
The outbreak affected at least 35 people in 12 states in December 2014 and January 2015. Most of those affected (34) needed hospital treatment and seven deaths were recorded, with listeriosis contributing to at least three of those.
Most of those affected reported eating various brands of commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel-coated apples before becoming ill. The implicated apples were traced to a single grower, Bidart Bros. in Bakersfield, California, and microbiological investigation showed that Listeria closely related to the outbreak strain was present at the company’s apple packing facility. Bidart Bros. subsequently voluntarily recalled apples packed at the site.
The newly published FDA inspectors’ observations show that environmental sampling at the facility isolated Listeria from seven sites in the apple cooling and packaging areas, six of which were direct food contact surfaces. These included polishing and drying brushes, a wooden storage bin, on an automatic line and a packing line drain. Other problems with damaged and worn equipment were also noted.
The inspectors’ observations can be viewed on the FDA website here.