On Dec. 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples that has sickened — and hospitalized — at least 29 people in 10 states. Until further notice, CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are advising consumers not to purchase or eat any commercially produced caramel apples whatsoever. That includes any caramel apples covered in nuts, candy or other toppings. This outbreak has not been connected to any non-caramel apples. There are no current advisories or warnings against conventional apples. While the CDC’s initial outbreak announcement did not include a comprehensive list of caramel apple brands implicated in the outbreak, a number of companies and brands have announced recalls or have been tied to the outbreak in the days following the first announcement. One of the recalled brands, Happy Apple Company, said that one of its apple suppliers, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA, may have supplied apples connected to the outbreak. Brands that have issued recalls:

Another fruit company, Pacific Coast Fruit, confirmed that Happy Apple purchased apples from both Bidart Bros. and Pacific Coast, and Bidart Bros. was now recalling its apples for the Listeria risk. Pacific Coast says that it’s recalling all Happy Apple brand caramel apples sold after September 22, 2014.

In addition, CDC cited two more brands as being associated with the outbreak, but the companies have not issued recalls:

  • Carnival
  • Kitchen Cravings

Illnesses have occurred in the following states: Arizona (4 illnesses), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3) A California man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against grocery retailer Safeway, claiming that a contaminated caramel apple sold at a local Safeway store sickened his wife and lead to her death. That man has been retained by foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, which underwrites Food Safety News. A number of retailers, including Safeway, have reported removing caramel apple products from store shelves. Known illnesses began occurring in mid-October and were still appearing in late November. CDC has not declared an end to this outbreak, and it’s possible that more illnesses will be counted in the coming weeks. The following are CDC graphics showing the geographical and temporal distributions of the outbreak:

  • Jennifer Johns

    How is the death of the woman in California the fault to the grocery store? The grocery store only get these items pre-packaged and stocks them for sale. Are they going to sue the stock person who physically put the product on the shelf? If they knew about the recall and did not pull the product then yes they would be responsible, but this article does not say that. They even go on to say the retailer has pulled the products from sale. The main problem is the fact that Listeria grows at refrigerated temperatures, so even if the apples were keep in the refrigerated produce sections the bacteria would still be multiplying. This is again not the fault of the retailer, but the fault of the producer.