Caramel apples are a fun autumn treat for many – although their high sugar content and the additives in the caramel certainly do not put them in the category of healthy. If you happen to have any prepackaged caramel apples in your fridge or pantry, or know anyone who does, we suggest throwing them out immediately, due to potential contamination with listeria.
According to the CDC, to date, 26 people in the US have been hospitalized, and 4 people have died, from an outbreak of listeriosis, a foodborne illness caused by Listeria bacteria. The CDC states, “the information CDC has at this time indicates that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria and may be causing this outbreak.”
So far, the outbreak is known to have affected people in ten states: Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Over 80 percent of the individuals sickened by listeria report eating prepackaged caramel apples prior to their symptoms.
Nine of the sickened individuals were pregnant women or their newborns. The outbreak is also associated with three cases of invasive meningitis in healthy children between the ages of 5 and 15.
The scary thing is, it is still unclear which brand or type of caramel apples are contaminated. The CDC states, “out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that US 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.”
Apples and caramel individually are not implicated in the outbreak. However, it is thought that the offending caramel apples are likely still on store shelves, and people’s homes.
This outbreak, besides being utterly tragic for the affected individuals, can remind us that processed foods not only contain chemical additives, they are also at a high risk of contamination. There are many times during processing and packaging that pathogens can enter the mix – as this caramel apple case clearly shows.
Looking for a healthy apple snack? Aside from just munching a yummy organic apple, you could slice and dip it into some organic, homemade (or locally made) almond butter or raw honey. Not only are these dip options nutritious, if you make them yourself, or get them from a local producer you trust, you will have much less to worry about contamination-wise.
-The Alternative Daily