Family of woman killed by listeria infection linked to caramel apples speaks out

David Louie Image
ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Family of woman killed by listeria infection from caramel apples speaks out
The family of the Santa Cruz woman who died of a listeria infection after eating caramel apples has filed a wrongful death suit against Pleasanton-based Safeway.

FELTON, Calif. (KGO) -- A wrongful death suit has been filed in Santa Cruz County after a woman died after eating caramel apples.

The 81-year-old Felton resident died of a listeria infection earlier this month.

Shirlee Frey had fallen and was starting to recover when she took a sudden turn for the worse. Doctors discovered she had a listeria infection and died.

The link to caramel apples came later as similar cases surfaced in 10 states stretching from the west coast to the east.

Her son Brad Frey heard about the outbreak on the news.

"I had never heard of listeria until my mom's death of Dec. 2," Brad Frey said. "So, I call my brother and said that's unusual, there's this outbreak of listeria and caramel apples, and he said, 'Oh my gosh, Mom brought caramel apples to the kids on Halloween.'"

Shirlee Frey purchased them her local Safeway store in Felton. Safeway has removed all caramel apples from sale.

A lawsuit has been filed against Safeway to help determine the source and how the caramel apples got contaminated with listeria.

Safeway said it can't comment about the suit, but said "the product was supplied to us by a third party, and we are looking into this matter further."

"There are 10 states involved, and they're not all clustered together," Brad Frey said. "All of the people infected with this particular bacteria seem all to have the exact same strain or maybe two strains that are related to each other."

Brad Frey hopes the lawsuit will provide answers about his mother's death. Bill Marler is the family's Seattle-based attorney.

"It's unclear as to whether or not we have one manufacturer, whether or not we have a tainted component part," Marler said.

Marler specializes in food-borne illness cases. He wants to determine if the caramel apples were tested for listeria. He also warns that symptoms of listeria infection can take up to 70 days to surface.

"If they are showing any symptoms whatsoever, if they're nauseous, if they're vomiting, if they're having diarrhea, if they're having headaches, they need to seek prompt medical attention," he said.