Trick or Treat, watch out for listeria on your candy apple stick

October time is apple time and with Halloween just a few days away, caramelized apples are considered a “healthy alternative” for our little Trick or Treat demanding monsters. But with the recent recalls of apples due to listeria infections, should one considering caramelized pears instead?

The first cases with listeria infected caramelized apples appeared last year between October and January where 35 cases with listeriosis was detected. From these, 34 people were hospitalized and 7 died.

The caramel was blamed, initially but later on researchers found that apples were the source of the listeria infection.

Apples (and caramel) that have never been linked to foodborne illnesses were in a more recent case, found to be the cause of yet another listeria outbreak.

The Trick is in the apple Stick

Researchers found, that the dipping stick also used to hold the candy apple, is the main reason for the listeria infection. In their study, researchers from Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin, investigated artificially contaminated candy apples with and without a stick and discovered that the ones with the stick were infected 11 or 28 days post incubation at 7 and 25 degrees. The ones without the stick had naturally eliminated the bacteria after 28 days of storage due to the low ph level (<4) of apples and the low water activity (<0.80) of caramel coatings. The paper concluded that, the apple juice transferred from the interior of the apple to the surface upon puncturing with the stick had created the necessary microenvironment that favors Listeria growth.

Final remarks on caramelized apples

No need to hold back on those delicious caramelized apples for Halloween! Just make sure to consume apples punctured with stick right away or the bad bugs will!

Happy (Safe) Halloween!

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