Within days of heralding their products’ return to grocery stores in three states, officials with Blue Bell Creameries quietly recalled two flavors of cookie dough ice cream from 10 states because of Listeria concerns.
Discovered to have had Listeria monocytogenes problems at its production facilities in recent years, Blue Bell remains under federal investigation related to a deadly multi-state outbreak that temporarily halted the company’s operations in 2015.
This time, though, the Listeria contamination is believed to be the fault of a company supplier — Aspen Hills Inc. — according to a notice Blue Bell posted Wednesday. No illnesses had been reported in connection with the recalled ice cream as of Wednesday, Blue Bell officials reported.
“Blue Bell identified a potential problem through intensified internal testing and notified Aspen Hills. Aspen Hills then issued a voluntary recall of the products supplied to Blue Bell,” according to the notice on the Brenham, TX-based ice cream company’s website.
“Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution.”
Blue Bell reports distributing the recalled “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” and “Cookie Two Step” flavored ice cream in 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Blue Bell had just re-entered grocery stores in Georgia and the Carolinas in the past 10 days.
Consumers are urged to check their homes for the recalled Blue Bell ice cream and not eat it. The recalled ice cream can be identified by the following package information:
- Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough half gallons with the code number 082618226;
- Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough pints with code numbers 081518242 or 082418242; and
- Blue Bell Cookie Two Step half gallons with the code numbers 080418222 or 081818224.
Blue Bell produced the recalled ice cream at its Sylacauga, AL, plant using cookie dough from Aspen Hills Inc.
Follow the dough
Based in Garner, IA, Aspen Hills is a supplier of cookie dough for food companies. It is also a leading provider of cookie dough for fundraising campaigns, according to its website.
Aspen Hills recalled certain lots of its no-egg chocolate chip cookie dough on Tuesday, according to documents posted on Blue Bell’s website. Aspen Hills shipped 578 cases of the dough to Sylacauga, AL, on July 26 and a total of 1,358 cases to Brenham, TX, on Aug. 9 and 22.
The recall notice from Aspen Hills posted by Blue Bell does not name the ice cream company. It also does not specify how many entities in Alabama and Texas received the combined 1,936 cases of cookie dough.
Anyone who has eaten the recalled ice cream and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should immediately seek medical attention and inform medical personnel about the possible exposure to Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms can take up to 70 days after exposure to develop.
Listeria monocytogenes is a microscopic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
The Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream products in 2015 was both complex and unusual. The outbreak included at least 10 sick people across four states and spanned the period from 2010 to 2015. All 10 people required hospitalization. Three died.
In addition to withdrawing their products from the market in 2015, Blue Bell officials shut down production facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas. But the fourth-largest ice cream producer was back in business by year’s end.
Texas put Blue Bell on short leash
Owners of Blue Bell Creameries LP agreed earlier this year to pay a fine in Texas in relation to the deadly Listeria outbreak. The agreement between Blue Bell and the Texas State Department of Health Services required the company to pay $175,000 within 30 days of signing it. Blue Bell’s president and CEO Paul W. Kruse signed the agreement July 22.
Another $675,000 — for a total fine of $850,000 — must be “held in abeyance” and would go to the state if Blue Bell fails to meet food safety requirements in the coming 18 months.
If Blue Bell makes it through the 18 months, the state will not require the company to pay the remaining $675,000 of the $850,000 fine, according to the agreement.
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