The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Blue Bell Creameries for its handling of an ice cream contamination incident. The case is connected to 10 documented listeriosis cases among consumers. Three people died from complications caused by consuming Blue Bell frozen treats.

U.S. prosecutors are investigating Blue Bell Creameries executives engaged in any transgressions during the company's course of action after the listeria outbreak. Listeria was first found on the food service cup in March 2015. Blue Bell Creameries responded by gradually recalling its frozen treats. On April 20, 2015, the company finally pulled out all of its frozen treats including sherbet, ice cream and frozen yogurt products in 23 states.

Unfortunately, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation found that the listeria outbreak started way back in 2010. The U.S. health agency connected the listeria patients back in 2010 to 2015 to the current outbreak. The connection was made through database comparisons of the bacteria's DNA.

"...the fact that it was the same strain over the last five years suggests it could have lurked somewhere in the factory the whole time," said CDC's Dr. Robert Tauxe back in April. Tauxe is the deputy director CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases.

Listeria Symptoms And Risks

The germ listeria causes a deadly infection called listeriosis. Typically found in water and soil, listeria is also present in poultry and cattle, thus extending to raw milk. Unlike other germs, listeria can reproduce in cold temperatures such as food processing facilities and even in a refrigerator.

According to the CDC, people with weakened immune systems such as newborns, pregnant women, patients and senior adults are at most risk to listeriosis. In pregnant women, listeriosis can lead to a premature delivery or worse, a miscarriage and stillbirth, putting the lives of both the mother and the newborn at risk.

Those with milder cases of listeriosis can suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, fever, general fatigue and stiff neck. For senior adults, whose immune systems are not as strong as young people, listeriosis symptoms can lead to meningitis and even septicemia, a severe blood infection.

Foodborne Diseases

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about 48 million Americans (one out of six people) get sick from foodborne disease annually. This results in over 128,000 hospitalizations and about 3,000 deaths yearly due to largely preventable fatal infections.

In September 2015, Stewart Parnell, who was then CEO of the now-closed Peanut Corporation of America, received a 28-year sentence for playing in a role in the 2008 salmonella outbreak. The incident resulted in nine deaths and 714 documented cases of infections spanning 46 states.

U.S. prosecutors proved that Parnell was aware that the company was selling peanut butter paste contaminated with salmonella. The Peanut Corporation of America's recall was one of the biggest in the country's history.

Photo: Jonny Hunter | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.