Caramel apples, a sweet treat that comes into favor as the weather grows colder, are being largely blamed for five deaths around the country. In total, 26 people have been hospitalized after eating caramel apples contaminated with listeria, a bacterium that has harmful effects when ingested.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the CDC has warned consumers against eating any pre-packaged, commercially-produced caramel apples, including those with toppings such as nuts, chocolate and sprinkles.
Ten of the states that have seen a listeria infection are in the Midwest: Five people in Missouri, four in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin. Texas and Arizona each had four cases. Washington, California, Utah and North Carolina had one case each. New Mexico has had five cases.
FoodSafety.gov reported that Listeriosis, the illness caused by listeria, can cause fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC warns that the elderly, women who are pregnant, newborns and people who have compromised immune systems are affected more than others. The bacterial infection can be fatal.
Nine of the cases involved a pregnant woman or her newborn, and three others were among healthy children aged 5 to 15 years, the CDC said. According to their studies, 83 percent of the ill people reported eating pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples.
So far, no cases have been linked to apples or caramel individually.