The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that has claimed the lives of six people and has hospitalized 31.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified two cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses. CDC and FDA are working with Canadian health authorities to determine whether these illnesses are related to the U.S. outbreak.
The information CDC has at this time continues to indicate that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.
Caramel apple brands named in interviews have included Happy Apple, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. However, the investigation is ongoing and other brands may be identified. 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.
To date, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, an apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this listeriosis outbreak.
On Dec. 24, 2014, Happy Apple Co. of Washington, Mo., voluntarily recalled Happy Apple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23, 2014. On Dec. 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm'l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Mo. issued a voluntary recall of Merb's Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available between Sept. 8 and Nov. 25, 2014. Investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.
Although voluntary recalls have been issued for three brands of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, CDC’s advice to consumers remains the same. CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers 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. These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.