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Watch Out for Caramel Apples!

1:45

Caramel apples, a popular treat for Halloween and fall parties, can make someone very sick if they have not been refrigerated and contain dipping sticks, researchers warn in a new study.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and dipping sticks are the culprits. Because caramel has a low amount of water and apples are acidic, neither are normal breeding grounds for listeria, explained study author Kathleen Glass, associate director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

However, piercing an apple with a dipping stick causes a bit of apple juice to leak out and become trapped under a layer of caramel, creating an environment that aids the growth of listeria already present on the apple's surface, Glass explained.

When listeria is already present, it can survive refrigeration and even freezing. But both methods for storage can help prevent listeria from developing when it is not present.

Researchers studied the growth of the listeria bacteria on caramel apples that were stored at room temperature versus caramel apples that were refrigerated. They found that the amount of listeria on unrefrigerated apples with sticks increased 1,000-fold, while listeria growth on unrefrigerated apples without sticks was delayed, the investigators found.

Refrigerated apples with sticks had no listeria growth for a week, but then had some growth over the next three weeks. Refrigerated apples without sticks had no listeria growth over four weeks, the findings showed.

To be safe, you should buy refrigerated caramel apples or eat them fresh, Glass advised.

Packaged caramel apples were responsible for a serious Listeriosis outbreak in 2014 in which 35 people in 12 states were infected and seven died, the researchers said.

If caramel apples are a favorite in your family, make sure they are either eaten right away after being made or refrigerated. If you purchase them, make sure they come from a refrigerated compartment and have not been sitting out in the store at room temperature.

Symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea may begin a few days after you've eaten contaminated food, but it may take as long as two months before the first signs and symptoms of infection begin.

If the listeria infection spreads to your nervous system, signs and symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion or changes in alertness, loss of balance or convulsions.

Seek emergency care if you experience any of these symptoms and you believe you may have eaten contaminated food.

Healthy people can usually tolerate a listeria infection, but the disease can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns. People who have weakened immune systems also are at higher risk of life-threatening complications. Prompt antibiotic treatment can help curb the effects of listeria infection.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/20151014/caramel-apples-can-harbor-listeria-study-finds

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/definition/con-20031039

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting

Prepackaged Caramel Apples Linked to Listeria Outbreak

2:00

This is the time of year when people eat food combos that they might not typically eat. One holiday treat is caramel coated apples, however, this year there is a warning to avoid pre-packaged caramel coated apples due to the possibility of contamination with Listeria.

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any 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.

Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.

Investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

As of December 22, 2014, a total of 29 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states:

·      Arizona (4)

·      California (1)

·      Minnesota (4)

·      Missouri (5)

·      New Mexico (5)

·      North Carolina (1)

·      Texas (4)

·      Utah (1)

·      Washington (1)

·      Wisconsin (3).

Illness onset dates range from October 17, 2014, to November 27, 2014. Nine illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant).

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 41% were female.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

All 29 ill people have been hospitalized and, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths and it is unclear whether it contributed to a fourth.

The fifth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/caramel-apples-12-14/index.html

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