After discovering Listeria contamination in yet another of its products, Blue Bell Creameries has voluntarily expanded its product recall to all of its products. Listeria was found last month in two half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tests indicate that Blue Bell products from plants in Texas and Oklahoma were the source of a Listeria outbreak that infected five adults in Kansas, three of whom died. Three adults in Texas were also sickened in the last four years, the New York Times reports. The CDC calls this “a complex and ongoing multistate outbreak of listeriosis occurring over an extended period.”
Blue Bell chief executive and president, Paul Kruse, said in a news release, “We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe.” Kruse said the company “cannot say with certainty how listeria was introduced to our facilities,” and is continuing to investigate, according to the Times. Blue Bell is cleaning and sanitizing equipment and surfaces in its plants and sending daily samples for testing.
Listeria bacteria can be present in raw milk and it can cause severe infections in infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC. Listeria infection can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths. Healthy children and adults occasionally get infected but do not usually become seriously ill. The symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria bacteria, include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Symptoms can begin from three to 70 days after the bacteria is ingested.
From January 2014 to January 2015, five people in Kansas were sickened while hospitalized for unrelated conditions, according to the CDC. Four of the patients are known to have had milkshakes made with a Blue Bell ice cream called Scoops and two other products made at Blue Bell’s plant in Brenham, Texas, the Times reports. The Texas patients also developed listeriosis after being hospitalized from 2011 to 2014. Testing has confirmed that the strains with which they were infected “were nearly identical” to strains found at Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The CDC is now testing to see whether three other listeriosis infections between 2010 and 2012 were related to the Blue Bell outbreak.
Blue Bell began the recall on March 13, after health authorities suspected a connection between the Kansas infections and products made at Blue Bell’s Texas plant. The recall was extended on March 23, after Listeria strains were found in products made at the Oklahoma plant, the Times reports.
Blue Bell produces ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks that are distributed in nearly half the country, and internationally. Two Blue Bell distributors in the Philippines are participating in the recall.