Prior to a deadly 2014 listeriosis outbreak, caramel apples were not thought to be vehicles for the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. The purpose of this review article is to summarize what has been learned from research prompted by this outbreak. An overview of the two L. monocytogenes outbreaks related to prepackaged caramel apples, along with a brief discussion of apple sanitation and the production processes used to make caramel apples, is provided. Research suggesting ways to prevent future outbreaks arising from caramel apples is summarized. This review is based on a qualitative analysis of literature as well as interviews with current caramel apple manufacturers. Sanitation, packaging, and storage procedures used by manufacturers in the past may be insufficient to effectively inactivate L. monocytogenes in the case of product contamination. Novel apple sanitation methods and product formulations to control L. monocytogenes on caramel apples have been developed and, in some cases, implemented in commercial production.
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