State and federal health officials are investigating five cases of Listeriosis which have been linked to single-serving ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries. The five, all adult Kansas residents, were hospitalized at the time for other reasons and reportedly became ill after a majority of them consumed Blue Bell Creameries single-serving ice cream at the hospital. According to an advisory posted Friday from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “All five case patients are adults. Three deaths have been reported.” Illness onset dates range from January 2014 to January 2015, the agency stated. The advisory noted that an investigation into the situation was underway involving FDA officials, those from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Texas Department of State Health Services. The five patients were infected with one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes, FDA stated. Three of the strains have also been found in Blue Bell Creameries products made at the company’s production facility in Brenham, TX. No enforcement action has been taken against the facility, according to TX news reports. Those three strains and four others were found in single-serving Blue Bell Creameries products during routine sampling Feb. 12 at a South Carolina distribution center. FDA stated that the products — Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and Great Divide Bar — were manufactured at the Brenham facility. The agency’s advisory further stated, “The Texas Department of State Health Services, subsequently, collected product samples from the Blue Bell Creameries 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 available for four patients show that all 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 is not confirmed that the hospital receives ice cream only from the Brenham facility.” FDA did not name the hospital, but a Kansas TV station reported Friday that Blue Bell Creameries had confirmed it as Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita, KS. Blue Bell Creameries has removed the affected ice cream products from the market by picking them up from retailers and hospitals and has shut down the production line where they were manufactured. This action includes only the products listed below and does not include Blue Bell cups, pints or half gallons. Affected Blue Bell Creameries products include:
|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|
|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, are not subject to recall. Consumers should not eat any of the products listed above, FDA stated. 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. Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, or develops fever and chills after eating the ice cream, should seek medical care and 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 consumption of the contaminated food. Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups 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. Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures, as low as 40 degrees F (4 degrees Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more 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, FDA advises that it is very important that consumers thoroughly clean these areas.
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops. Then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
Consumers should follow these simple steps:
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
Institutions and retailers should not sell or serve any products listed above, FDA stated. They should also take the following steps:
- Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
- Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
- Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross-contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.
- Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Listeria bacteria can grow at refrigeration temperatures. Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated products and should be discarded.