Turns out the fact that they're disgusting isn't the only reason to worry about caramel apples: contaminated versions of the nominal dessert "treat" killed five people and caused 23 more to get sick in ten states over the past two months.
The initial deaths/hospitalizations (of the 28 total cases, 26 resulted in hospitalization) occurred in Minnesota, but the Centers for Disease Control has now linked a rash of other listeria deaths and illnesses in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin to the same source. These weren't homemade caramel apples, either, but prepackaged ones which were apparently infected with the deadly bacterium listeria.*
For those not familiar with listeria, it's one of the nastier food-borne bacteria: its mortality rate usually sits at 20%, and it goes particularly hard after anyone with a weakened immune system, such as pregnant women, newborns, and the elderly. It tends to be particularly prevalent in produce such as bean sprouts and canteloupe.
As a result, the CDC are trying to make sure no one else who may have purchased the potentially-tainted apples in October or November eats any that are still lying around. Any potentially-tainted packages have already been pulled from shelves.
* It's unclear which particular brands are responsible for the outbreak — the CDC is currently investigating.
Image via Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock.