Bill Marler

Food Safety Advocate & Food Poisoning Attorney

Shirlee Frey – The 2014 Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak

On December 19th, 2014 federal investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that an investigation of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was underway. Officials linked the outbreak to caramel apples from the Bidar Bros. apple-packing facility in Bakersfield, California, which packaged apples for the Happy Apple Company.

In total, 35 people were confirmed as part of the outbreak. 34 people were hospitalized and listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported. 

One of those cases was Shirlee Frey. Shirlee was a healthy 81-year-old woman who became ill after consuming several packages of Happy Apple’s caramel-covered apples purchased at Safeway in Felton, California around Halloween time. Shirlee first noticed something was wrong when she went to get something in the kitchen and fell unconscious face down on the kitchen floor. When Shirlee reached the hospital, they preformed a CT scan revealing a subdural hematoma along with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Shirlee was moved to a skilled nursing facility in Palo Alto to be monitored. 

At the facility, Shirlee began to complain of abdominal pain and discomfort along with muscle weakness. The staff recommended that she be transferred to the Dominican Hospital ER. At the ER they recommended Shirlee by moved to Stanford Hospital. Upon arrival she was unresponsive. Shirley remained unconscious for the last 5 days of her life, when her family made the decision to take her off life support. The official cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest resulting from bacterial meningitis.

Marler Clark represented Shirlee and her family in claims against the Happy Apple Company. You can read more about Listeria lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Happy Apple Company listeria outbreak on the Marler Clark Website.  

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