Three people died and two others became sick in Kansas after eating Listeria-contaminated products made by Blue Bell Creameries, maker of Blue Bell brand ice creams, prompting the Texas-based company to issue its first product recall in its 108-year history.
On Friday, March 13, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said that investigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) think that the five victims ate the contaminated products at the Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita.
Via Christi, on its part, said that it was not aware of any listeria contamination in the products but it already removed all Blue Bell Creameries products from all of its locations when the potential contamination was identified. It has eight hospitals in Oklahoma and Kansas.
In a statement, the FDA said that the five victims were patients at the hospital and were infected with one of the rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Three Listeria strains were also found in products that were manufactured by the production facility of Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas. The onset of the illness ranged between January 2014 and January 2015.
Hospital records of the four patients revealed that they ate Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products albeit it was not clear if the products were from the company's Brenham factory. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that four of the patients had milkshakes with a single serving of "Scoops" at the hospital.
The five people who fell ill were getting treatment for unrelated health problems before they developed listeriosis, which the CDC finds to be a strong indication that their infection was acquired from the hospital.
The FDA said that Blue Bell Creameries has reported that it already pulled their affected products off the shelves at hospitals and retailers. The company also shut down the production line where these products were made.
The agency said that it was notified that Listeria bacteria were found in samples of the Great Divide Bars, Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Cotton Candy Bars, Almond Bars, Scoops, Vanilla Stick Slices, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, and No Sugar Added Moo Bars.
Kruse said that the only time the products can be contaminated is during production and that the contamination had been traced to a machine used for extruding the ice cream into cookies and forms. The particular machine is currently off line.
Below are the products that Blue Bell Creameries removed from the market: