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Recall of the Week: Blue Bell Creameries ice cream due to an outbreak of listeriosis

Ice Cream ucm438162Five patients who were treated in a Kansas hospital were infected with one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. All five patients are adults. Three deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Three of these strains found in Kansas, which are similar, have also been found in products manufactured at the Blue Bell Creameries production facility in Brenham, Texas. The dates are from January 2014 to January 2015.

What’s the problem and what's being done about it?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was notified that the three strains and four other rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found in samples of Blue Bell Creameries single serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and the Great Divide Bar ice cream products collected by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control on Feb. 12 in routine testing. The products are manufactured at Blue Bell Creameries’ Brenham facility.

The Texas Department of State Health Services collected additional samples from the Brenham facility. These samples yielded Listeria monocytogenes from the same products tested by South Carolina and a third single-serving ice cream product, Scoops, which is also made on the same production line.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, hospital records for four patients show that were served ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries’ prepackaged, single-serving products and milkshakes made from these products. The hospital receives ice cream manufactured by Blue Bell Creameries, although it hasn’t been confirmed that the hospital receives ice cream only from the Brenham facility, the FDA said in a statement.

Blue Bell Creameries said it has picked up the affected ice cream products from the retailers and hospitals it serves. The company has also shut down the production line where the products were made, the FDA said.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis? 

Listeriosis is a serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other intestinal symptoms, or develops a fever and chills after eating the ice cream should seek medical care. They should tell their health care provider about any history of eating the ice cream. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after eating of the contaminated food.

Who’s at risk?

Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in high-risk groups. These include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions such as cancer. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

What products are involved?

Blue Bell Creameries said that the following products were removed from the market. This action includes only the products listed below and doesn’t include Blue Bell cups, pints, or half gallons.

Product Name

Product Code

Chocolate Chip Country Cookie

SKU # 196

Great Divide Bar

SKU #108

Sour Pop Green Apple Bar

SKU #221

Cotton Candy Bar

SKU #216

Scoops

SKU #117

Vanilla Stick Slices

SKU #964

Almond Bars

SKU #156

6 pack Cotton Candy Bars

SKU #245

6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars

SKU #249

12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars*

SKU #343

*The regular Mooo Bars, available at grocery stores, aren’t subject to this recall.

What do consumers need to do?

Consumers shouldn’t eat any of the products listed above, health officials advise. If these ice cream products are in your freezer, they should be thrown away, even if some of them have been eaten without anyone becoming ill.

Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures, as low as 40 degrees. The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the greater opportunity Listeria has to grow.

For refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with the potentially contaminated ice cream, it’s important to thoroughly clean these areas.

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops.
  • Sanitize them with a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to a gallon of hot water.
  • Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that hasn’t been used.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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