Minn. caramel apple lover survives devastating listeria infection

Joan Klossner still breaks down remembering the pain and suffering of her 77-year-old father while he underwent treatment in the intensive care unit.

Photos: Robert's road to recovery

"He'd start crying and saying, he'd say, 'Stop, please stop. It's too painful. Can you stop for a while?' So he could catch his breath," she said.

She said her mom and dad, Robert Spear, absolutely love Halloween and that he would have devoured the pre-packaged caramel apples they bought last fall at the Cub Foods store in Cottage Grove.

Now, it's those very apples, and more specifically, the listeria they carried, that the family blames for nearly killing him. The dangerous bacteria settled in his hip and surgery was required to essentially power wash out the infection. The intense procedure and long hospital stay eventually led to acute kidney failure. Klossner prepared to say her final goodbyes.

"At one time, he looked at us and he said, my sister and the doctors were there, he said, ‘I'm not doing so well. Am ? Am I going to make it?'" Klossner recalled.

Spear was one of the lucky ones. Of the 35 nationally reported caramel apple Listeria cases last fall, seven of the victims died. The outbreak was traced to a California company, Bidart Brothers and its processing plant. On Friday, the family filed suit against Bidart and Cub's parent company, Supervalu.

The suit seeks damages including hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical and rehab bills. Bidart did not address the spear's specific allegations, but in a statement, said:

"In response to your question, we have not seen the particular lawsuit you referenced. Please forward it to us. As for the litigation in general, our hearts go out to those adversely affected by this devastating outbreak. Our family business has always been committed to providing our customers wholesome, nutritious, safe food. We deeply regret that our product may have caused or contributed to harming anyone. Thank you for your time and patience."

Klossner and her loved ones remain committed to making sure food processing safety remains a top priority.

"My dad has a saying that an apple a day used to keep the doctor away. We find that to be completely false in our case," she said.

It was his Cub store card that cataloged his family's purchases that helped lead inspectors to a cause of the nationwide outbreak.

Supervalu statement

The safety of our customers is a top priority and we take this issue seriously. We just received this lawsuit today and are currently reviewing the details. The product in question is prepackaged caramel apples that we did not manufacture and we will be reaching out to the product manufacturer to address this matter.

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