US apple industry questions FDA’s response on caramel apple outbreak

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that in a presentation to the U.S. Apple Association’s Outlook and Marketing Conference Aug. 20, the Food and Drug Administration’s Roberta Wagner took questions from the audience about pending food safety rules and the fallout from the foodborne illness outbreak in late 2014 linked to Listeria monocytogenes in caramel apples.

caramel.appleOne audience member asked Wagner, associate director for Food Safety Modernization Act Operations at FDA, about the agency’s unclear messages about whether whole apples were involved. He asked her if whole fresh apples were implicated in the outbreak.

“I can tell you the statistic we are showing are only for caramel apples,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 people were sickened, 34 hospitalized and three died as a result of the outbreak linked to caramel apples.

“One of the research areas we need to (address) is why caramel apples and not apples?” she said.

Another conference attendee noted that foreign governments blocked imports of whole fresh apples.

“What is the FDA going to do so we hopefully curb that in the future?” he said.

Wagner said the FDA can’t control actions by other governments, but that the FDA will work with agriculture officials in other countries to defuse any concerns.