• US Faces Another Listeria Outbreak
  • March 12, 2015 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • Federal and state health and safety agencies are urging consumers to not eat caramel apples that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and have been linked to five deaths in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both announced the agencies are investigating the bacterial outbreak to determine the source of the contamination.

    As of Dec. 19, the health agencies found the listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis, was linked to prepackaged caramel apples. The contamination has lead to 28 diagnoses of listeriosis and 26 hospitalizations across 10 states, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. New Mexico and Missouri have each had the most cases - five in each state.

    What is listeriosis?
    Listeriosis is a rare but serious foodborne illness, according to the FDA. Symptoms of the bacterial infection are fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues and chills. While people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of dying from the infection, it can harm healthy people as well. Four of the illnesses reported by the CDC occurred in healthy children between five and 15 years old.

    It can take anywhere from three to 70 days for people who have been exposed to the bacteria to become sick, and their illness can last a few days to weeks, according to Federal Food Safety Information.

    The agencies are specifically urging pregnant women to stay away from caramel apples because the bacteria can be particularly dangerous to them and their babies. Listeriosis can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature labor and serious illness in the child after birth, the FDA reported.

    What should consumers do?

    The agencies recommend consumers avoid all caramel apple products, including those with nuts, sprinkles and other toppings. The bacteria can continue to grow on food products even in cold refrigerators, and can spread through cross-contamination of surfaces and kitchen utensils.

    Consumers who purchased caramel apples should dispose of them and thoroughly clean their kitchens with a solution of hot water and chlorine bleach.

    History of listeriosis

    According to the CDC, there have been four listeria outbreaks in 2014 compared to one outbreak in 2013. Earlier this year, listeriosis was linked to products from Roos Foods Dairy Products, Oasis Brands, Inc. and Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Only one death was reported in each of the first two outbreaks, and two deaths were reported in the Wholesome Soy Products outbreak.