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. 

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
A Rare Apple Lisa 1 Computer Is Up for Auction on eBay
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For superfans of vintage Apple products, a working Apple Lisa 1 is the holy grail of collector's items. First released in 1983, the pioneering computer (the first to feature a graphic interface and a mouse) was a commercial failure and only sold 100,000 units, very few of which survived to the present day. But an eBay seller is offering up the super-rare opportunity to own one, as DesignTAXI reports.

The computer in question, selling for more than $55,000 as of January 8, is in mint condition. According to the listing, it has only been turned on a few times.

A Lisa 1 computer
professorinschubert, eBay

As you can see in the video below, everything seems to be in working order.

The seller estimates that there are only 20 to 100 Lisa 1s left in the world. And even for a Lisa 1, this one is a rare machine. Lisa computers, reportedly named after Steve Jobs’s daughter (though there have been some other theories about the name), were the only machines Apple released with its doomed Twiggy disk drives—a faulty format that turned out to be incredibly unreliable, leading to the product’s downfall. Apple then released the Lisa 2 with standard 3.5-inch floppy disk drives, offering customers free upgrades for their Lisa 1 Twiggy drives.

Since most customers jumped at the chance to make their $10,000 computer ($24,700 in today's dollars) run properly, Lisas that still have their original Twiggy drives are incredibly hard to find. The Lisa 1 on sale still has its twin Twiggy drives though, and they work, at least as well as the drives ever worked.

Whether the seller will actually get his $55,000 is questionable. In 2010, a similar Lisa 1 sold for just $15,000. But the model seems to have gained a lot of value since then, since one sold for $50,000 in November 2017.

[h/t DesignTAXI]


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