(Reuters) - Minnesota health officials say that two people have died and two others were hospitalized in recent weeks after eating listeria-tainted caramel apples.
The four people in Minnesota were adults between the ages of 59 and 90 who became ill in late October and November from caramel apples contaminated with the bacteria, Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz said on Friday.
"Anytime we have two cases or more that match by pathogen and by time and space, that to us indicates there may be an outbreak," Schultz said.
Minnesota officials, in a statement on Thursday, said they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration on a multi-state listeriosis outbreak, although the other states were not identified by officials.
Health officials warned consumers who may have purchased any pre-packaged, commercially-produced caramel apples, including those with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate and sprinkles, not to eat them until more information is available.
Those who fell ill in Minnesota bought caramel apples from Supervalu Inc's Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike's Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand apples, the statement said. These two brands are no longer being sold, but health officials are concerned that people who bought them may still have them at their homes.
Listeriosis is an infection that primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune symptoms. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, confusion and convulsions.
CDC officials were not immediately available for comment on Friday.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Susan Heavey)