The Food and Drug Administration discovered traces of listeria bacteria in 19 of the 89 ice cream making facilities it inspected in 2016 and 2017.
The federal agency announced on Wednesday that its findings have led to the closure of one manufacturer and a series of product recalls.
Listeriosis is a serious illness often caused by consuming food contaminated with the listeria bacteria. As many as 1,600 people contract listeriosis every year, with an estimated 260 of them dying because of the infection.
Bacterial Contaminations In Ice Cream Factories
The FDA inspections were launched in 2016, following several ice cream products that were recalled over the past three years. An ice cream maker was also linked to a listeriosis outbreak, which killed three people in 2015.
Aside from finding listeria monocytogenes in the manufacturing facilities, inspectors also detected evidence of salmonella at one of the sites.
"Although many of these facilities were adhering to good manufacturing practices, we did find that some were in violation of the law," explained Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at the FDA.
"These results serve as an important reminder to all food facilities distributing products in the US of the importance of complying with rules set forth to mitigate safety issues."
The agency said it wanted to find out what types of bacteria are making their way to ice cream products and whether manufacturers are taking the proper steps to keep their food safe for consumption.
In 2018, the FDA suspended the food facility registration of Working Cow Homemade, an ice cream maker based in St. Petersberg, Florida, for suspected listeria contamination.
However, the agency later lifted the suspension after the company decided to switch to distributing ice cream made by other manufacturers instead of making its own products.
Working Cow Homemade also voluntarily recalled some of its ice cream that were potentially contaminated with the bacteria, according to the FDA.
Nelson's Creamery issued its own product recall after one of its ice cream was found to contain the food additive soy lecithin, which the company allegedly failed to declare.
Other Cases Of Food Contamination
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that eight people from four different states were sickened after consuming food contaminated with the listeria bacteria. The victims reportedly ate deli meats and cheeses bought from separate locations.
Chips Ahoy-maker Mondelēz Global recalled some of its products because of a baking mishap, which accidentally added solidified ingredients to its food items.
Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit consumer watchdog, said the number of food recalls in the United States has increased by as much as 10 percent between 2013 and 2018. These recalls mostly involved poultry and meat products believed to be contaminated with harmful bacteria.
Other products recalled in the past include breakfast cereal, cookies, fruits, and beer. Two of the most prominent cases of contamination involved salmonella found in ground beef and cereals and E. coli found in romaine lettuce.
PIRG said the increase in product recalls is a result of improved food contamination detection, courtesy of recent advancements in science and technology.