What’s the problem?
October 15, 2015 – Kroger Co. has pulled unrefrigerated caramel apples from its store shelves after it was found they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Kroger recalled the caramel apples “out of an abundance of caution” after a study published by the American Society of Microbiology found that unrefrigerated caramel apples were at risk for listeria contamination after being pierced with a stick, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Specifically, the study found that piercing an apple with a stick causes some juice to become trapped under the caramel, creating an environment that fosters the growth of listeria already present on the apple’s surface. The bacteria grows more quickly when the apples are unrefrigerated, according to the study.
Payton Pruett, vice president of food safety at Kroger, said in a press release that the health risk posed by the caramel apples is minimal. He said the company is open to carrying the products again at some point in the future, and that it will work with suppliers to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
What is Listeriosis?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeriosis is a severe infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease typically affects children, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems. Prompt antibiotic treatment can help curb the effects of listeria infection.
Signs and symptoms of listeriosis include:
- Muscle aches
If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
- Confusion or changes in alertness
- Loss of balance
What’s the Problem?
Health officials are urging consumers to avoid eating pre-packaged caramel apples because they have been linked to at least 7 deaths and 32 illnesses in 10 states. All of the people were infected with the same strain of Listeria, and most (83%) reported eating caramel apples before getting sick.
Of the 32 patients with listeria infections, at least 31 required emergency hospitalization. Of these, 7 died. Listeriosis caused or contributed to at least 4 of the deaths, according to an FDA Warning issued Dec. 19. Another person who died had the bacteria in their body, but it was not believed to have caused the death.
The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed 2 deaths related to the outbreak; all who were sickened in the state reportedly purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip or Mike’s Discount Foods. Those stores carried Carnival and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, none of which are still available for purchase.
The other two deaths occurred in Texas and California. CDC is aware of listeriosis cases related to the outbreak in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
CDC said the outbreak began Oct. 17, with the last known illnesses reported Nov. 27. Illnesses that began in early December may not have been reported yet. Patients with listeriosis ranged from 7 to 92 years old.
Nine cases involved either a pregnant woman or an infant. Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women because the illness can be passed to a fetus, even if the mother is asymptomatic.
Strangely, 3 cases of meningitis linked to the outbreak were reported in older children, the CDC said. Those children were not among the deaths, but the agency is concerned that meningitis occurred in otherwise healthy children, which is extremely rare.
Simultaneously, 2 other cases of listeriosis, both in Washington state, were linked to frozen desserts made by Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream. Both patients are recovering and remain hospitalized. Meanwhile, the company issued a recall for its ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet of all flavors. The products were distributed in 14 states. It is still unclear whether the ice cream-related listeria infections are linked to the caramel apple-related infections.
Bidart Bros. Recalls Gala, Granny Smith Apples
Jan. 9, 2014 – Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA announced this week that it is recalling apples shipped from its Shafter plant after it was determined the company supplied 2 commercial brands linked to the ongoing listeria outbreak. Health officials from the FDA and California Department of Health investigated the facility and found evidence of listeria on surfaces likely to come into contact with apples.
Do I Have a Caramel Apple Lawsuit?
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in caramel apple recall lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Again, if you got sick after eating recalled caramel apples, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and our lawyers can help.