Four years ago, health officials made the surprising discovery that caramel apples were the source of a Listeria outbreak. Never before had the seasonal treat been linked with listeriosis, a foodborne illness usually associated with deli meats, soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and smoked seafood. The outbreak, which sickened 35 people in 12 states killing seven of them, has been regarded as something of an anomaly -the first and only Listeria outbreak linked to caramel apples. Until now.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals for the first time that a 2017 Listeria outbreak was also linked to caramel apples.
When people are tested for foodborne illness, genetic testing is performed on isolates of the bacteria to determine its “fingerprint.” These results are then uploaded to the CDC’s national database network called PulseNet. Because matching fingerprints indicate that the infections had the same source, the CDC uses this tool to find outbreaks.
In 2017, the CDC found three such Listeria matches, one in Illinois, one in Iowa, and one in Michigan. All were tested within the same two-week period October 15, 2017 to October 29, 2017. The patients, all male, ranged in age from 55 to 71 years old.
During interviews with health officials, these patients reported eating caramel apples in the month before they became ill. The Michigan patient had grocery store receipts.
Tests on caramel apples collected from grocery stores and the facility where they were produced were not positive for Listeria. But the epidemiologic evidence indicates that caramel apples were the source of the outbreak.
CDC researchers said the outbreak highlights the need for processors of ready-to-eat foods, like caramel apples, to be aware of the hazard Listeria presents. And that further research into the control of Listeria in fresh apples could help to reduce or eliminate the pathogen from some ready-to-eat foods.
The Listeria lawyers at Pritzker Hageman represent clients nationwide including those who were sickened in the 2014-2015 caramel apple Listeria outbreak including one client whose baby was born with Listeria prematurely and another whose infection required hip surgery and treatment for kidney failure. To contact our Listeria team, call 1 (888) 377-8900 or use the form below. The consultation is free and there is no obligation.