Following the death of three people in Kansas, Blue Bell is recalling several of its ice cream products. According to the state health department, all three individuals became ill after consuming ice cream contaminated with listeria. In addition to the deceased, two additional people became very sick.
Paul Kruse, CEO of Blue Bell, released a statement confirming that investigators with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believe all five individuals consumed Blue Bell ice cream while being treated as in-house patients at the Via Christi Hospital St. Francis located in Wichita, Kansas.
The hospital released its own statement saying that it was unaware of listeria contamination in any of the Blue Bell Creameries’ products but everything had been removed from all of the Via Christi locations.
In Friday’s warning from the FDA, consumers were strongly advised to avoid eating Blue Bell Creameries’ novelty products due to bacteria contamination. Along with the products removed from the Via Christi hospitals, anything in question has been pulled from store shelves. However, consumers could still have contaminated products in freezers at home.
The novelty type ice cream products sold as Blue Bell Creameries under the recall include Chocolate Chip Country Cookie, Sour Pop Green Apple Bar (includes six-packs), Great Divide Bar, Scoops, Cotton Candy Bar (includes six-packs), Almond Bar, Vanilla Stick Slices, and Non-Sugar Added Mooo Bars.
Not included in the recall are regular Mooo Bars, as well as cups, pints, and half-gallon containers of standard ice cream. Officials stated that the contaminated ice cream products were gathered and disposed of approximately three weeks ago.
As part of the investigation, the Brenham manufacturing site in Texas was visited. After gathering and analyzing samples, investigators found Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria in question.
Kruse said one of the production lines is believed to be the culprit. The machinery is quite complicated and has been out of operation for nearly six weeks. More than likely, that piece of equipment will no longer be used as a means of preventing any further contamination issues.
The listeria outbreak in Kansas is also being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with officials from the Kansas Health Department.
Officials confirmed that the people who became sick and those who died were all adults and patients at the same hospital. It was also confirmed that at minimum, four of the five had in fact consumed one of the recalled novelty products under Blue Bell Creameries.
However, the product called Scoops is believed to have been the real cause, which is ice cream used by Via Christi Hospitals in making malts. That product was shipped to seven of the hospitals, three within the Wichita area and all of them operated by Via Christi.
Every year in the United States, 1,600 people become ill and more than 250 die directly from listeriosis. While there were four outbreaks last year, this is the first in 2015. People at greatest risk include the elderly, young patents, and those with compromised immune systems.