Health officials warn consumers not to eat commercially produced caramel apples after these were linked to a listeria outbreak that sickened more than two dozen individuals, five of whom died.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently investigating an outbreak of listeriosis traced to commercially produced caramel apples as 15 of the 18 affected individuals who were interviewed claimed eating one before becoming ill.
The CDC has so far identified 28 cases from 10 states, namely Arizona, California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Nine of the cases were pregnancy-related but no miscarriage was reported. Infants, children and adults were also affected.
Listeria infection, a food-borne illness marked by fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle aches, can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women, newborn babies, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. Although it seldom causes illness in healthy individuals and can be treated with antibiotics, listeriosis can be serious and even life threatening for some people.
Listeria outbreaks tend to cause more deaths compared with other pathogens such as E. coli or salmonella. The current outbreak has seen three children between five and 15 years old suffering from meningitis. Twenty-six of those affected, whose information was available, have been hospitalized and five have died.
The CDC said that investigations are still ongoing to determine the specific brands of caramel apples that may have caused the illness and the source of the contamination. Those who fell ill in Minnesota, however, reported eating caramel apples from Mike's Discount Food, Kwik Trip and Supervalu Inc's Cub Foods that carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brands.
No recall has yet been issued as of Dec. 19, but the CDC is advising consumers to steer clear of prepacked caramel apples.
"Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided," the agency stated.
Caramel apples tend to be very popular during Halloween and the individuals, who were reported to have been affected by the outbreak, fell ill around this period between Oct. 17 and Nov. 27. Since the commercial variety of the product has a shelf life of a month or more, some prepackaged caramel apples are still sold in stores.