One year ago, health officials made a surprising and sad discovery. For the first time, the source of a Listeria outbreak had been identified as caramel apples.
Before it ended, the outbreak spread to 12 states before ending with 35 sick and seven dead, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s final report.
Listeria infections cause symptoms including fever, muscle aches, headache, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Among pregnant women, Listeria infections can trigger miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery and Listeria meningitis in newborns.
In this outbreak, 11 cases were associated with pregnancy including three premature births and one fetal loss. Three pediatric cases of Listeria meningitis were also reported.
Case patients, who ranged in age from newborn to 92, reported onset of illness from October 17, 2014, to January 6, 2015. The 12 states reporting cases were: Arizona, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
All but three of those sickened reported eating commercially prepared, pre-packaged caramel apples before they became ill. Bidart Brothers was identified as the supplier of the contaminated Gala and Granny Smith apples.
Recalls were issued for Gala and Granny Smith apples were sold under various brand names including Granny’s Best and Big B. Recalls were also issued for caramel apples sold under the Kroger and Happy Apples brand names at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Safeway, United Supermarkets, Amigos, Albertsons Market, Market Street and United Express stores. They were also sold under the Merb’s Candies brand in the St. Louis area and under the Karm’l Dapple brand name at grocery, discount, and club stores in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.
In Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, caramel apples that were potentially contaminated with Listeria but not recalled were sold under the brands: Aamodt’s, Abdallah, Angeli Foods, Candy Jar, Carnival, Celebration, Circle K, Finnottes, Grandma Bev’s, Jerry’s Foods, Karamel King, Kowalski’s Markets, Kitchen Cravings, Lunds & Byerly’s, Supermom’s, and Wescott. Caramel apples sold at Smith’s Food and Drug in New Mexico were linked to the outbreak.