While having an apple a day is normally considered a healthy food choice, federal investigators have confirmed that there is a correlation between a California apple processing plant and a strain of listeria bacteria responsible for killing seven people and making more than 30 others very sick.
An earlier warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked consumers not to eat any pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples, including those with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate or sprinkles, until the source of the outbreak was pinpointed. Most of the people infected by listeria fell ill after eating pre-packaged apples.
Reuters reports that tests performed by Food and Drug Administration investigators on samples from the Bidart Bros. processing plant and apples the company supplied to retailers found a connection between the produce and two strains of Listeria monocytogenes responsible for the deadly listeria outbreak.
Bidart Bros., the company supplying the Granny Smith and Gala apples, has issued a voluntary recall of all shipments of the apples – caramel coated or not- still available in the marketplace. The last shipment was made on December 2.
The company advises that consumers should not eat the Granny Smith and Gala apples. Affected apples can be sold under the brand names “Big B” and “Granny’s Best,” but could also be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all.
Consumers who are buying or have recently purchased Granny Smith or Gala apples should ask their retailers if Bidart Bros. supplied the apples, the company says.
Three other companies – Happy Apples, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies – have each announced recalls of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples since news of the contamination began in late December.
Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.
According to the Mayo clinic website, symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. If listeria spreads into the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion or change on alertness, loss of balance and convulsions.
During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.
If you have consumed any food that has been recalled or connected with listeria, pay close attention to any possible signs or symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above – contact your doctor.
Sources: Victoria Cavaliere, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/12/usa-california-listeria-idUSL1N0UR0P120150112
Ashlee Kieler, http://consumerist.com/2015/01/12/california-apple-plant-issues-recall-after-tests-find-link-to-deadly-listeria-contamination/