Blue Bell expands ice cream recall due to Listeria

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Listeria monocytogenes

An investigation into further illnesses possibly related to Blue Bell products is ongoing
An investigation into further illnesses possibly related to Blue Bell products is ongoing
Blue Bell Creameries is expanding a recall to include Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints which tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

It also includes products manufactured on the same line at the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant.

The firm has suspended operations at the site while it investigates the problem. Production at Sylacauga and Brenham, Texas continue to operate.  

The outbreak now involves eight people infected with outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes five from Kansas and three from Texas.

Contributing factor in patient deaths

Blue Bell ice cream products contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes have been found to be a contributing factor in three deaths, according to officials. 

Five people infected with one of four strains of the pathogen identified by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were reported from Kansas. 

The three women and two men were hospitalized at the same place for unrelated problems before developing invasive listeriosis. 

Blue Bell ice cream 3
Recalled products

From four ill people which have provided information on the foods eaten in the month before Listeria infection, all consumed milkshakes made with a single-serving Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops” while they were in the hospital.

Whole genome sequences (WGS) of strains isolated from the ice cream products were highly related to sequences of Listeria isolated from four of the patients.

These Blue Bell brand ice cream products were made at the company’s Texas facility.

Investigators have isolated Listeria from single-serving Blue Bell brand 3 oz. institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups (not “Scoops”) collected from the Kansas hospital and from the company’s Oklahoma production facility.

Three patients from Texas during 2011 through 2014 were hospitalized for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis.

WGS of their Listeria monocytogenes strains were highly related to sequences isolated from another Blue Bell ice cream product, 3 oz. institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups made at the Oklahoma facility.

Paul Kruse, CEO and president of Blue Bell Creameries, said everyone at the firm regrets the incident.

“We are deeply saddened and concerned for all who have been affected. Please know that we are working tirelessly to make sure that we provide a safe product,” ​he said.

“Our internal investigation into the specific cause of the contamination is ongoing, and we have ceased production on the lines where the recalled product was made.

“We are working diligently with the [FDA] to investigate this issue as its inspectors conduct their examination of our production facilities. After our work is completed, we will review the FDA’s findings and make necessary adjustments to our operations.”

Expanded recall

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told Blue Bell this week that the Banana Pudding Ice Cream pint tested positive.

It was produced in the plant on February 12, so Blue Bell is recalling all products made on that one production line, from February 12 to March 27. They have a code date ending in S or T.

On April 4, Blue Bell began working with retail outlets to remove all products produced at the site from their service area.

These are identified with a code date ending in O, P, Q, R, S or T located on the bottom of the carton.

On April 3, Blue Bell Creameries suspended operations at its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant to inspect the facility due to a 3oz. institutional/food service chocolate cup that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes and was withdrawn from all outlets.

That product was only available to Blue Bell’s food service and institutional accounts and was recalled along with 3oz. vanilla and strawberry institutional/food service cups.

Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma facility can be identified by checking for letters “O,” “P,” “Q,” “R,” “S,” and “T” following the “code date” printed on the bottom of the product package, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

CDC has identified three patients with listeriosis between 2010 and 2012 who had Listeria isolates with PFGE patterns similar to those of other illnesses linked to Blue Bell products.

The investigation to see whether the illnesses are related to Blue Bell products is ongoing.  

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Ice Cream

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