CDC: Listeria Contaminated Pre-Packaged Caramel Apples Linked to Four Deaths, 28 Illnesses

The holidays are full of sweet treats and fresh-baked goods. But if your snacking plans included finishing off those prepackaged caramel apples from fall, you better come up with different plans. That’s because federal officials say the desserts may be the source of a multi-state listeria outbreak that has been linked to at least five deaths.

ABC News reports that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning consumers to avoid the caramel apples after at least 28 people in 10 states have been infected with Listeriosis due to Listeria monocytogenes – a bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness.

According to a notice from the CDC, investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Officials with the CDC say that of the five deaths, Listeriosis definitely contributed to at least four deaths.

The investigation into the contamination is ongoing, but out of an abundance of caution, the CDC warned all consumers today to avoid eating 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.

In all, the outbreak has affected consumers ages 5 to 92 in all corners of the U.S. including Arizona, California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

CDC officials report that of the 28 people who have been infected, three were children between the ages of 5 and 15 who developed severe meningitis symptoms. Another nine cases involved pregnant women or a newborn infant.

Of the 18 sickened people interviewed by the CDC, 15 reported they ate prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.

Infectious disease experts tell ABC News that the number of people infected by Listeriosis will likely grow because of an incubation period ranging from three to 70 days.

ABC News reports that the outbreak was first reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, which found four people between the ages of 59 and 90 had been infected.

The Department reports that the patients had eaten caramel apples during the months of October and November and were all subsequently hospitalized. Two died from the infection.

The Minnesota patients reported purchasing the caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried the Carnival and Kitchen Cravings brands of caramel apples, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

While the seasonal apples are no longer available for sale, Minnesota Dept. of Health officials say they fear consumers may still have tainted apples in their possession.

Director of food safety and quality assurance for Kwik Trip stores, says the pre-packaged treats have not been available at the stores for several weeks and that the company is working with state and federal officials “to make sure public health is protected,” ABC News reports.

A spokesperson for H. Brooks and Company, which releases the Carnival brand caramel apples, says the company is aware of the issue and working with officials during the investigation.

Officials with Cub Foods and Mike’s Discount Foods did not return requests for comment. Contact information for the second caramel apple brand producer, Kitchen Cravings, could not immediately be found, ABC News reports.

Caramel Apples Linked to 4 Deaths In Multi-State Listeria Outbreak [ABC News]