September 24, 2018

CDC Updates Caramel Apple Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated the outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples made from Bidart Brothers apples. The outbreak appears to be over, but the recalled products may still be in consumers’ homes. Even if you froze these products, discard them, since Listeria can grow at freezer temperatures.

In all, 35 people in 12 states were sickened in this outbreak. There were seven deaths and 34 hospitalizations. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths. Eleven illnesses were pregnancy-related; one illness resulted in a fetal loss. Three children developed Listeria meningitis, a serious complication of this infection. In addition, two people in Canada were sickened with the same outbreak strain of bacteria.

Caramel ApplesTesting at the Bidart Brothers’ facility in California revealed the presence of the pathogenic bacteria. The Listeria isolates taken from that facility were highly related to the outbreak strains, according to the CDC. The FDA report states that “pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of the Listeria monocytogenes isolated from environmental samples collected at Bidart Brothers confirmed that the PFGE patterns, or DNA fingerprints, of the pathogen matched the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from people affected by the outbreak.”

There were several recalls associated with this outbreak. Happy Apple, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies recalled their products as a result of this outbreak. In Minnesota, brands associated with the outbreak included Carnival and Kitchen Cravings. In addition, Bidart Brothers recalled all of their Granny Smith and Gala apples produced in 2014.

Twenty-eight (90%) of the 31 ill people interviewed in the outbreak investigation ate commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. The other three ate whole or sliced green apples. The case count by state is: Arizona (5), California (3), Colorado (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), Nevada (1), New Mexico (6), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). Illness onset dates ranged from October 17, 2014 to January 6, 2015.

If you purchased any commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apples last fall, do not eat them. Discard in a sealed bag or return to the place of purchase for a refund. If you purchased Gala or Granny Smith apples last year, ask your grocer if any came from Bidart Brothers. The symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning, which are flu-like, with fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting, may not appear until 70 days after exposure. Pregnant women may only be mildly sick, but listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and infection of the newborn baby.

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