The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local authorities are investigating a listeriosis outbreak linked to commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
What is the Problem and What is Being Done?
The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating an outbreak of listeriosis linked to commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples.
According to the CDC, as of December 22, 2014, 29 people in 10 states have been reported as being infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes. The CDC reports that all 29 ill people have been hospitalized. Five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths and it is unclear whether it contributed to a fourth. The fifth death was unrelated to listeriosis. Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related.
The CDC reports that 20 of the 23 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples. No illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and are not prepackaged and no illnesses have been linked to caramel candy.
The Minnesota Department of Health has reported four illnesses. The Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples. These two brands are no longer available for purchase at retail locations.
On December 24, 2014, the Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri, issued a voluntary recall of Happy Apple Brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25th and November 23rd 2014, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
In the company's recall announcement, the Happy Apple Company reported receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, an apple supplier, that there may be a connection between the listeriosis outbreak and the apples supplied to the Happy Apple Company's California facility.
Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.
On December 27, 2014, California Snack Foods, of El Monte, California, issued a voluntary recall of California Snack Foods Karm'l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15th and November 28th, 2014, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
In the news release issued by California Snack Foods, the company reported receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, an apple supplier, that there may be a connection between the listeriosis outbreak and the apples supplied to California Snack Foods.
California Snack Foods caramel apples are sold in single packs and three packs and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in the following states: Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.
FDA and state investigators are working to identify the source of contamination and to determine what products may be contaminated. New information will be provided as it becomes available.
Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, or develops fever and chills after eating commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about any history of eating those caramel apples. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food.
Who is at Risk?
Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.
Consumers should not eat commercially-produced, prepackaged whole caramel apples, including those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided. Consumers should throw away any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that they may have in their homes until more specific guidance can be provided.
Listeriamonocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures, as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeriahas to grow.
For refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with commercially-produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, it is very important that the consumers thoroughly clean the following areas:
Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
In addition, consumers can follow these simple steps for food safety:
Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
The CDC recommends that restaurants and retailers not sell or serve commercially-produced, prepackaged whole caramel apples, including those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided. Restaurants and retailers should also:
Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.
Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures. Listeria can also cross contaminate other food cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area. Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated products, and should be discarded.
Who Should be Contacted?
Consumers with questions about the California Snack Foods recall may contact the company at 800-966-5501 Monday through Friday during normal business hours or via email@ email@example.com.
Consumers with questions about the Happy Apple recall may contact the company at 800-527-7532 Monday through Friday during normal business hours or via email@firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult http://www.fda.gov.
The information in this posting reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer, the CDC, and the state and local public health and food regulatory agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update this page as more information becomes available. For more information:
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