Bidart Bros., the Bakersfield apple producer tied to listeria-tainted caramel apples that sickened dozens of people in the U.S. and Canada -- including seven who died -- has launched a website for consumers to report claims against the company.
The food poisoning outbreak detected last month has sickened 32 people in 11 states in the U.S. Two illnesses in Canada also have been linked to the problem, health officials in that country said.
People who have been injured or are interested in filing a claim can visit the company's website at bidartapplerecall.com. The website allows reporting of bodily injury and other claims.
Bidart Bros. last week voluntarily recalled its 2014 crop of Granny Smith and Gala apples after tests by state and federal health officials revealed listeria contamination at the firm's apple-packing facilities in Orosi and Missouri and on whole apples. Genetic fingerprinting linked those listeria strains to the outbreak.
Health officials warned that consumers should not eat Granny Smith and Gala apples recalled by Bidart Bros. They were sold under the brand names "Big B" and "Granny's Best," though they could also have been sold under other brand names or none at all. Bidart officials last shipped Granny Smith apples to customers on Dec. 2, but consumers who recently bought apples should ask their retailer whether they're supplied by Bidart, health officials cautioned.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says seven people infected with the outbreak strains of listeria have died, and the infection directly contributed to at least three of those deaths. Most of those who fell ill reported eating caramel-coated apples. The CDC continues to warn consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged, commercially produced caramel apples.
Thirty-one of the 32 people sickened in the outbreak were hospitalized, and 10 of the illnesses occurred in pregnant women or newborns, including one that resulted in the loss of a fetus, the CDC said. Three cases of meningitis were reported in otherwise healthy children aged 5 to 15.
Bidart Bros. officials said in a statement that they're reviewing all of their procedures for safety and that the plant passed a U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety audit in September.
Listeria bacteria can cause life-threatening illness, and even death, in young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
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