Well, this isn’t the way to kick off Christmas celebrations. The CDC is investigating an outbreak of Listeria infections it is linking to commercially-produced, pre-packaged caramel apples. As of December 22, 29 people have been hospitalized, with five deaths.
Three of the deaths have been directly linked to Listeria, with a fourth a contributing cause. So far, the CDC has traced the outbreak to 10 states: Arizona, California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Illness date ranges have been recorded as early as October 17 to November 27.
Listeria infections have only been linked to pre-packaged caramel/candy apples. If you have a regular apple, you’re fine. If you make your own caramel apples, you are good.
The CDC guidelines are out of an abundance of caution for consumers. They recommend 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. These products could have a shelf life of more than one month.
Illnesses could still be reported. Any Listeria infections that started on or after December 7 have yet to be reported. With the extended shelf-life of the apples, it’s smart for any consumers to toss the apples. If you are questioning if your caramel apple falls under these guideline, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Toss it, and grab a pie for your Christmas dessert.
Listeria infections often affect older adults, young kids and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms range from fever, nausea and muscle aches. If it starts attacking the nervous system, headache, stiff neck and convulsions can occur.
What is concerning is that some will only feel mild, flu-like systems. If you know you’ve ate a caramel apple like the ones described above, and can’t otherwise explain your illness, seek medical attention.
Jump over to the CDC microsite on the Listeria outbreak. It explains the disposing process for the apples, and will update consumers on when the guidelines will be lifted.