Caramel Apples Linked to Deadly Listeria Infection

Halloween is nearly upon us, and that means parties, parades, pillowcases, and paranoia about people trying to poison our children. The annual media-fueled rumors of poisoned candy and razor blade–studded apples are unfounded, but there is one treat you might want to treat with extra caution: caramel apples.

From November 2014 to February 2015, at least 35 people from 12 states were infected with listeriosis. Of those people, 90 percent said they’d eaten prepackaged caramel apples before they got sick. A new study explains how it happened.

Listeriosis is an infection is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It mostly affects the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems, but in rare cases people without these risk factors can become infected. Early symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea, but the infection often spreads from the gut into the rest of the body.

Once it becomes invasive, listeriosis can be deadly. All but one of the 35 people infected in last winter’s outbreak were hospitalized, and seven died, at least three of them as a direct result of the infection. Alarmed by the news, three brands of prepackaged caramel apples and one apple producer issued recalls.

But no one knew how the bacteria got into the apples in the first place. Under normal circumstances, caramel is too sludgy, and apples too acidic, for bacteria to grow. In a journal article published this week in mBio, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Food Research Institute report two conditions that made the outbreak possible.

Bacteria that lands on the outside of an apple has usually reached a dead end. But inserting a stick into the apple breaks the skin and creates a tiny puddle of juice on the surface of the fruit. Smothering that sugary puddle in a layer of caramel then creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth.

The researchers also found that temperature plays a big role. They made caramel apples with and without sticks and swabbed them all with Listeria bacteria. Half of the apples went into the fridge and half were left on the counter. After three days at room temperature, the bacterial colonies on apples with sticks had multiplied by one thousand. Refrigerated apples with sticks were able to fend off bacteria for a week before succumbing. No bacteria at all grew on the chilled apples without sticks.

The solution here is pretty clear, say the researchers. You don’t have to give up on caramel apples. Buy them fresh, keep them in the fridge, and eat them within a few days. 

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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Adobe Photoshop Is Coming to the iPad
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Photoshop has gone through endless iterations since its debut in 1990. The popular photo-editing software was nearly called Barneyscan XP because it was sold with Barneyscan-branded scanners. Creators John and Thomas Knoll sold the product to Adobe Systems, who have been distributing it for nearly 30 years. That first release was a Macintosh-only product, but its next release is also a bit of a milestone for Apple. Adobe is planning on a full-featured Photoshop app that will run on iPads, as 9to5Mac reports.

This is big news for image editing professionals and enthusiasts, as previously only portions of the program were available via Apple’s app store. For Apple, the move is part of a push for their iOS11 operating platform to mimic desktop functionality. For Adobe, having a full-featured Photoshop on the tablet is expected to satisfy hobbyists and more casual users of the software while still meeting the needs of professionals who need to perform tasks away from their work stations.

Windows users can currently run Photoshop on select tablets like the Microsoft Surface. The iPad version is expected to hit sometime in 2019 and will likely be part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription, which costs $9.99 a month.

[h/t 9to5Mac]

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iStock
Apple Wants to Make It Easier for 911 Dispatchers to Figure Out Where You Are In an Emergency
iStock
iStock

A few weeks ago, I dialed 911 from a sidewalk in my neighborhood to alert the police of a lost child who had asked me for help. "What's your location?" the dispatcher asked. I had no idea; it was a small side street whose name I had never bothered to learn. I had to run to the end of the block and stare up at the street sign, and when the dispatcher wasn't familiar with the name, either, I had to spell it out, letter-by-letter.

Soon, it may not be quite so difficult to alert emergency services of your location. The Wall Street Journal reports that a forthcoming update to Apple's iOS will automatically send out your phone's location to emergency call centers when you're on the phone with 911.

The update is part of a partnership with RapidSOS, a technology company founded to make it easier for first responders to reach people in an emergency. It aims to make it as simple to find a 911 caller using a cell phone as it is to find one using a landline.

Landline systems can deliver your exact address to emergency services, but cell phone carriers currently only convey your approximate location, with even less accuracy than Google Maps or Uber can. It might be off by as much as a few hundred yards, which can make a substantial difference if you're waiting for life-saving care. The FCC has ruled that by 2021, all cell phone carriers must be able to locate emergency callers within 165 feet, 80 percent of the time—but that's years away.

The new update would come with iOS 12, which is expected to be released later this year. The data automatically sent by your iOS would be different from that data your cell phone carrier sends. It will use Apple's HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), a system that estimates location based on cell towers, GPS, and Wi-Fi access, sending that information over to emergency call systems using RapidSOS's technology. RapidSOS isn't used by all 911 call centers in the U.S., but the company reports that it will be used by the majority by the end of the year.

In a press release, Apple promises that user data will only be available for emergency use, and that the responding 911 call center will only have access to your location data for the duration of your call.

I wasn't in a hurry when I called 911, and I had the time and the ability to jog down the street and find a sign to figure out where I was. In most emergency situations, the few extra seconds or minutes it could take to pinpoint your own location might be a matter of life and death. As more Americans give up their landlines and go wireless-only, better emergency services location tech will be vital.

[h/t MarketWatch]

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