Blue Bell Creameries is managing its first ice cream recall in 108 years, following deaths in Kansas reportedly from listeria linked to the product.

Listeria is caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Five people infected with the organism were seen in a single hospital in Kansas. Doctors found four strains of the bacteria in the patients, three of which are similar to each other. Of the five patients treated for the illness, three have died so far.

A total of seven varieties of the disease-causing organism were detected in samples of ice cream manufactured by Blue Bell, including Great Divide Bars and the Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich.

"One of our machines produced a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem. When this was detected all products produced by this machine were withdrawn.  Our Blue Bell team members recovered all involved products in stores and storage," Blue Bell reported on its Web site.

Listeria infections are fairly rare, but they can result in death, particularly in young people and senior citizens. All the patients diagnosed with listeria infections in this latest outbreak were adults.

"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," the Food and Drug Administration announced on its Web site.

Listeria bacteria can live and grow at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning any infected products kept in a refrigerator can become a breeding ground for the microorganisms.

"Use an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, to check the temperature inside your refrigerator. The refrigerator should be 40°F or lower and the freezer 0°F or lower," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

Listeria monocytogenes can cross contaminate products stored with contaminated foods. Anyone who thinks they may have held affected products should wash their refrigerator with hot soapy water, and rinse off all surfaces. In addition to ice cream, the bacteria can also  be carried in meats, fruits, and vegetables.

The products being recalled were produced in Brenham, Texas. Anyone who thinks they may have affected Blue Bell products is being encouraged to call the company at 979-836-7977.

Photo: James Palinsad | Flickr

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