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Public Health Notice Update – United States Outbreak of Listeria infections related to prepackaged caramel apples that may have been distributed in Canada

January 14, 2015

Why you should take note

The United States Centers for Disease Control and PreventionExternal Link (US CDC) and the Food and Drug AdministrationExternal Link (FDA) are investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infectionsExternal Link (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

There are currently two cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same genetic fingerprint as seen in the US investigation. Since the investigation began, more detailed testing on the two Canadians cases has been completed concluding that only a single case (found in Manitoba) is genetically related to the US outbreak of Listeria. This individual has reported eating a caramel apple.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and its federal partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada are continuing to investigate whether the products potentially linked to illnesses in the US may have been imported and distributed in Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued food recall warningsExternal Link for all Granny Smith and Gala applesExternal Link exported by Bidart Bros. in the US as well as some varieties of caramel applesExternal Link due to possible Listeria contamination. Recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples may have been sold under other brand names besides the one identified in the recalls or without a brand name at all, such as in bulk.

As a precaution, the Public Health Agency of Canada is advising that Canadians do not eat any Granny Smith or Gala apples from Bidart Bros, or commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that were recalledExternal Link or made with Bidart Bros. apples, until further notice. This includes plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings. Caramel apple products could have a shelf life of one month, whereas the shelf life of Granny Smith and Gala apples varies depending on the environment they are stored in.

Based on current information related to this investigation, the risk to Canadians remains low. The Public Health Agency of Canada and its partners will notify Canadians of any increased risk to public health as new information becomes available.

Ongoing Investigation

The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified two cases of illnesses with the same genetic fingerprint as seen in the US investigation; however, more detailed testing has been completed, concluding that only one of the two cases is genetically related to the US outbreak of Listeria. The single case is in Manitoba and the individual has reported eating a caramel apple. The status of this individual is not known at this time.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued food recall warningsExternal Link for Granny Smith and Gala applesExternal Link exported by Bidart Bros., and some varieties of caramel applesExternal Link and is continuing to work closely with US officials to determine if other potentially affected product may have been distributed in Canada. If further products are identified, CFIA will inform the public and ensure that they are promptly removed from the marketplace.

What you should do

If you have any Granny Smith or Gala apples from Bidart Bros. in the US and/or commercially produced, prepackaged caramel that were recalled or made with Bidart Bros. apples in your home, do not eat them.

If you are unsure whether your apples or caramel apple products are included in the food recall warning contact the location where the product was purchased. If you are still unsure if your apple product is affected by this recall, do not consume it. Secure the apple product in a plastic bag and throw it out. Then wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water. Securing it in a plastic bag will ensure that no animals consume the product from your garbage. Food contaminated with Listeria may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

If you are still unsure if your apple or caramel apple product is affected by this recall, do not consume it. Secure the apple product in a plastic bag and throw it out. Then wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water. Securing it in a plastic bag will ensure that no animals consume the product from your garbage. Food contaminated with Listeria may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

If you suspect you have been ill from eating a Granny Smith or Gala apple or a commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apple, talk to your healthcare provider.

Symptoms

Many people are exposed to Listeria, but only a few will actually develop listeriosis. Mild symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Severe symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • poor coordination
  • seizures
  • neck stiffness

In the milder form of the disease, symptoms can start the following day after consuming a product with Listeria. For the more serious form of the disease, the incubation period is generally much longer; on average about 21 days, but can be up to 70 days after exposure.

Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics, but early diagnosis is key, especially for people at high risk, such as pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of Listeria that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983