Heartbreaking Testimony From Son of Caramel Apple Listeria Victim

Shirlee Frey, 81, died after eating her favorite treat.

"Ironically, my mother survived a brain bleed that resulted from a fall only weeks before she developed the infection that would kill her," Brad Frey said he plans to say at public hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C., about the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Frey bought a prepackaged caramel apple shortly before Halloween, ate it that week and began to feel sick, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by food safety lawyer Bill Marler and his colleagues.

The lawsuit says that because of Frey's illness, she fell and hit her head on Nov. 6, prompting a visit to the local emergency room and a flight to Stanford Hospital, where she had surgery on what doctors suspected was a brain bleed, according to a statement from Marler's firm. She was discharged for rehabilitation on Nov. 14, and her health appeared to be improving, according to the lawsuit.

Then, on Thanksgiving, Frey would not wake up, according to the suit.

At Stanford Hospital, doctors told Frey's family on Dec. 2 that she had listeria infection, and she died later that day, according to the wrongful death complaint.

Health officials told the family later that month that Frey was a victim of the multi-state listeria outbreak tied to prepackaged caramel apples, according to a statement from Marler's firm. The wrongful death suit remains ongoing.

"We were in utter disbelief," Brad Frey said he plans to tell the committee. "Caramel apples had been one of my mother's favorite snacks, and she frequently bought them as treats for herself and her grandchildren."

He said his parents had been conscious of food safety, "but there is only so much a consumer can do."

As a result, he said strong food safety laws and rules are crucial.

Other than the apple-related listeria outbreak, the bacteria has been linked to hummus, spinach and ice cream in the first few months of 2015.

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