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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.
The information that CDC has at this time indicates that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria and may be causing this outbreak. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do 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. Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.
As of Dec. 18, 2014, a total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states; 26 ill people have been hospitalized. Among the 26 people hospitalized, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths. Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5 to 15 years. To date, 15 of the 18 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.
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.