Blue Bell Creameries has voluntarily recalled all of its products due to a listeria outbreak, which has been linked to five infections, including three deaths. The New York Times reports that Blue Bell, which distributes frozen deserts to about half the country, discovered last month that two half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Infection with listeria bacteria, which can be found in raw milk, can be dangerous in pregnant women, children, the elderly and other with compromised immune systems.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the source of the outbreak stems from plants in Texas and Oklahoma. A total of five adults in Kansas were infected, and three of them died. These individuals were hospitalized for unrelated conditions and appear to have been ill from January 2014 through January 2015, according to the CDC. Four of the five patients were exposed to listeria through milkshakes at the hospital made with a Blue Bell ice cream called Scoops and other products made at Blue Bell’s plant in Brenham, Texas.
Additionally, three adults in Texas became ill over the last four years. These patients were hospitalized from 2011 through 2014 for unrelated reasons. The CDC says testing the genome of the strain responsible for the infections “were nearly identical” to strains identified at Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The agency is also conducting testing to determine if Blue Bell is linked to three other cases of listeriosis between 2010 and 2012. “This is a complex and ongoing multistate outbreak of listeriosis occurring over an extended period,” the CDC said, according to NYT.
Blue Bell started pulling its ice cream products off the shelves on March 13th after the company’s Texas plant was suspected to be the source of the Kansas infections. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how listeria was introduced to our facilities,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell’s chief executive and president.
The U.S. Food ad Drug Administration (FDA) said that after listeria strains were identified at the company’s Oklahoma plant, Blue Bell issued a second voluntary recall on March 23rd. In addition to ice cream, Blue Bell makes frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. The recall affects roughly two dozen states and some international locations, including the Philippines.