Following the recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to caramel apples which killed seven people and hospitalized 34, the president of the U.S. Apple Association has called food safety the apple industry’s “top issue,” according to the Capital Press. Jim Bair, the association’s president, made the declaration on his most recent trip to Washington state, where he met with growers and officials in the country’s top apple-producing state. to a quick campaign to disseminate information domestically, the caramel apple-linked outbreak caused minimal damage to domestic apple sales. But sales have suffered considerably overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, Bair said, noting that the outbreak has been “a wake-up call” for the apple industry. In January, health officials traced the Listeria illnesses to caramel apples sold by three companies that all sourced their apples from Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA. Bidart then recalled its Gala and Granny Smith varieties from the marketplace. Patients in 12 states fell ill between Oct. 17, 2014, and Jan. 6, 2015, with the bacterial infection listeriosis, which hospitalized 34 out of 35 known cases. The outbreak marked the first time apples were linked to foodborne illness-related deaths in the U.S.