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Listeria-contaminated caramel apples linked to four deaths in the US

  1. There's a listeria outbreak linked to prepackaged caramel apples in 10 states across the US.
  2. At least 28 people have been infected. Of those, 26 have been hospitalized, and at least four have died as a direct result of the food poisoning.
  3. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending  consumers stay away from prepackaged caramel apples.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria found in soil, water and animals, including poultry and cattle. These bacteria make people (and other warm-blooded animals) sick through food poisoning.

Listeria infection (known as listeriosis) usually happens when people eat contaminated foods, such as deli meats, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, soft cheeses, and raw sprouts. Often times, these foods came into contact with soil or manure at a food processing facility and were not properly sterilized.

Listeriosis causes a fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting, blood infection, diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes death. The listeria can spread to the nervous system, causes infections in the heart, brain, or lungs. In children, listeria infection can lead to inflammation in the covering of the brain, or meningitis.
Symptoms usually appear several days after eating contaminated food, but listeria can incubate in the body for as many as 70 days.

The groups most at risk for listeriosis are the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems. When listeria infection affects pregnant women, it can lead to miscarriage.

What happened in this outbreak?

map cdc listeria

Twenty-eight people in ten states — including Arizona, California, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin — have become sickened by listeria infection.

Of these people, 83 percent (or 15) reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, according to the CDC.

Nine of these illnesses were pregnancy-related, occurring in either pregnant women or their newborn infants. The listeriosis caused meningitis in three children.

What should I do?

The CDC recommends avoiding "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."

If you think you've eaten food that may have been contaminated, see a doctor and pay attention to your symptoms.

If you have further questions about this outbreak, you can call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).