The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples, which was first reported just before Christmas, turns out to have originated in the apples themselves, which were grown in central California and are now part of a widespread recall of the processor's Granny Smith and Galas.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pinpointed the Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield's apple processing plant as the origin of the holiday time listeria outbreak, which killed three people and sickened 28 across 11 states. Most of the victims reportedly ate caramel apples produced with the tainted fruit by Happy Apple Company, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies (thus the original warning to avoid caramel apples, which was announced on December 22, 2014).

The findings at the Bidart Bros. plant spreads the net of recalls to all Gala and Granny Smith apples distributed by the company. Brand names include “Granny’s Best” and “Big B,” but the apples can be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all, which makes the whole thing pretty tricky.

So tricky that in early January,  Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines each banned imports of both kinds of apples coming from the U.S. supplier; it seems that Bidart Bros. not only shipped to at least to the 11 infected states and Canada, but overseas as well.

According to the company, no Granny Smith apples have been shipped from the plant since December 2, 2014, and most of the caramel apples sold by the various manufacturers had a best use date between August 15 and November 28, 2014. California chains that sold the products include Wal-Mart and Safeway; consumers affected by the illness are currently suing both companies (along with Bidart and Happy Apple).

No lists of retailers who sold the apples in California are available from either the FDA or Bidart Bros. Instead, the FDA advises consumers who have recently bought Granny Smith or Gala apples to “ask their retailers if the apples were supplied by Bidart Bros.”

Or take our advice and just toss out any of those apples still hanging around in your refrigerator, since symptoms of listeriosis are fever, chills and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, and can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food – and can kill you. Why risk it?

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