A Missouri company is recalling packaged caramel apples that may be linked to a listeria outbreak that has hospitalized 29 people and killed at least three in 10 states.
Happy Apples of Washington, Mo., recalled caramel apples carrying a best-use date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23 that were sold in grocery, discount and club stores in packs of one, three, four, and eight.
In a statement this week, the company said an apple supplier, Bidart Bros., had notified it that "there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied" to a Happy Apples facility in California.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers to stop eating prepackaged caramel apples while it investigated the outbreak of listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes the rare but sometimes fatal infection. Older people, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the pathogen. The CDC said nine of the illnesses occurred in pregnant women or newborns. Three people have come down with meningitis.
In 2011, listeria in cantaloupes killed 33 people and sickened 147 in 28 states, according to the CDC. In the current outbreak, no illnesses have been associated with uncoated apples or caramel candy, or with caramel apples that are not prepackaged, the agency said.
The CDC originally linked the bacteria to five deaths, but the Food and Drug Administration, in an update posted Thursday, said only three deaths can be attributed to listeria. It is unclear whether a fourth death is connected to listeria, the FDA said, and the fifth was not caused by the organism. Health officials still have not determined the location of the listeria contamination.
Happy Apples said the caramel apples were available in Pennsylvania more than two dozen other states. The company ceased production of them at the end of October. They are no longer available in stores.