The impacts of an outbreak: caramel apple edition

As state and local health department and FDA folks try to get to the root of a caramel apple-linked Listeria monocytogenes outbreak, businesses big and small are dealing with the fallout.

The song, according to KOTA TV, remains the same – it’s not my product (I don’t think), but because of all the uncertainty sales are taking a hit.Unknown-21

Oh and we haven’t had an illness ever.

Recent reports from the CDC about Listeria outbreaks have owner Lori Carson worried that she will miss out on tending to customers minds or stomachs.

“It was Friday afternoon I got a phone call asking if it was safe to eat my apples. I was extremely confused why that question came out,” Carson said. Recent customers explained to Carson the headlines they read about the CDC report.

“It scared me a little bit and by Friday afternoon our sales did drop off. I wasn’t sure if it was just the afternoon or if it was due to this broadcast about caramel apples,” Carson said.

The report linked the listeria outbreak to pre-packaged, mass produced caramel apples and not the ones made fresh daily by local businesses.

After selling more than 5,000 apples this holiday season, Carson is happy to say she’s had no complaints.

“We’ve never had a complaint about one apple ever making someone sick,” Carson said.

Carson also says concerned customers may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I’m glad I got the phone call. It alerted me it made me aware that I needed to address the problem, that people are safe,” Carson said.

And unlike the pre-packaged caramel apples you find in stores the apples at Caramel Creations are refrigerated through the entire process to help ensure their safety to the public.

Yep, and Listeria monocytogenes grows at refrigeration temperatures.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.