What's In Store

Goodbye to packaged caramel apples at Harris Teeter stores

Harris Teeter shoppers will have to look elsewhere for one particular popular autumn treat this season.

Kroger, which owns Matthews-based Harris Teeter, has said it’s removing unrefrigerated caramel-coated apples pierced with dipping sticks from its stores because of possible safety risks.

A recent study published by the American Society of Microbiology claims that the apples, if left unrefrigerated, may be at risk for listeriosis, the third leading cause of food poisoning death in the U.S.

Cincinnati-based Kroger said recently its decision was a cautionary one since no illnesses have been reported in connection with the apples. The Kroger family of stores, which includes Harris Teeter, has pulled the products from shelves and distribution centers and has thrown them out, according to a recent statement.

“While we believe the potential health risk is minimal, we are acting out of an abundance of caution on behalf of our customers,” said Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety.

Pruett added that Kroger is open to carrying the products again and will work with suppliers to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.

Harris Teeter was bought by Kroger last year and is the No. 2 grocery chain in the Charlotte region behind Walmart, according to sales-tracking firm Chain Store Guide.

Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans not to eat packaged caramel apples, the suspected source of a multi-state Listeria food poisoning outbreak that killed several people. Symptoms include fever, stiff neck, vomiting, weakness and confusion. Antibiotics can cure the infection.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta