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FDA Investigated Listeria monocytogenes Illnesses Linked to Caramel Apples

FDA Investigated Listeria monocytogenes Illnesses Linked to Caramel Apples

2015-06-11 Reprint

Tag: food FDA caramel apples

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What was the Problem and What was Done?

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials investigated an outbreak of listeriosis linked to commercially-produced, prepackaged whole caramel apples.

According to the CDC, 35 people from 12 states were infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes.  The CDC reports that 34 ill people were hospitalized.  Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths that were reported.  Eleven illnesses were pregnancy-related, with one illness resulting in a fetal loss.  Illness onset dates ranged from October 17, 2014 to January 6, 2015.

The CDC reports that 28 of the 31 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially-produced, prepackaged whole caramel apples.  To date, caramel apple brands named in interviews include Happy Apple, Carnival and Merb’s Candies.

On December 18, 2014, the Minnesota Department of Healthreported 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.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified two cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same DNA fingerprints, or pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, as seen in the US outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses.  Since the investigation began, more detailed testing on the two Canadian cases has been completed, concluding that only a single case in Manitoba is genetically related to the U.S. outbreak of listeriosis.

Three companies have issued voluntary recalls of caramel apples because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  These companies are:

  • Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri
  • California Snack Foods, of South El Monte, California
  • Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri

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