Your Caramel Apple Could Be Death on a Stick
My family was out doing family-ish things when I spotted them...caramel apples. Be still my heart! Don't even judge. I know summer isn't over yet, but I'm so ready for fall and all of the delicious flavors that come with it.
As I looked over the selection of caramel apples, it took every ounce of strength not to buy one for my little guy especially when I spotted the blue raspberry (my favorite). Listen, I'm absolutely not a mom who is anti-sweets, I believe in moderation, but I found myself setting down the blue raspberry caramel apple that I'd been holding in my hands with a voice inside my head saying, "not today, satan." My son is still at that age where he's unable to care for his teeth completely on his own, so when I started thinking about how much time I would have to spend cleaning all of that gooey deliciousness from his little chompers, I backed away.
Caramel apples are amazing, but what about when they're not? According to the CDC, in 2014, seven people died from a Listeria outbreak caused by caramel apples and 32 other people got incredibly sick. Obviously, this outbreak was a few years ago, but it has definitely stuck in my mind all of this time. What's more, is that experts warm that we need to be extra careful whenever it comes to candy apples not just when there's news of people getting sick from them but all of the time.
So, what happened? Why did seven people die after eating caramel apples? Well, researchers say that it all directs back to the fact that bacteria on the apples were given an incredible insulated layer in which to breed. The study, published in the journal mBio, found that the growth of Listeria bacteria is most likely connected to the sticks that were used to dip the apples, and also suggests that the way the caramel apples were stored plays a big part in the increased risk of listeria developing inside of them.
The University of Wisconsin decided to dig even deeper and found that dipping an apple in hot caramel doesn't automatically kill all of the bacteria on its skin. In fact, what dipping an apple in caramel actually does is add an insulated layer for bacteria to grow and multiply and get this- it's especially bad if the apples are kept refrigerated for a long time after they're made.
So, what do you do if you just have to have a caramel apple? Wash your apple really well before you dip it in caramel and then eat it right away. And if you're buying store-bought apples, pay attention to expiration dates. Once your apples have been sitting in caramel for a week or longer, there's a good chance they could become infected with listeria which could translate to very bad news for your health.