Blue Bell Creameries has recalled all of its ice cream products in response to ever-increasing listeria contamination concerns. This total recall comes after months of incremental warnings that products could contain Listeria monocytogenes.
To date, listeria bacteria in Blue Bell ice cream has caused 3 deaths and 5 illnesses.
A Widening Net
Blue Bell's first recall was on March 13, when the manufacturer removed ice cream products that it had delivered to hospitals and retailers and shut down the production line where the affected products were believed to have been made. Ten days later, Blue Bell issued a second recall for chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream cups.
Blue Bell expanded the recall on April 7 to include any ice cream products manufactured at its plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and shut down the Broken Arrow plant. The latest recall asks for the return of all Blue Bell products currently on the market.
The FDA is warning consumers not to eat any of the recalled products, and dispose of or return any of the affected ice cream products.
A Nasty Bacterium
Listeria has been the cause of several recent recalls, from nuts at Trader Joe's to caramel apples and hummus. The sneaky bacteria can keep growing even in refrigerated foods, and remain in food products for up to 70 days.
Most people who come in contact with listeria might only suffer short-term symptoms such as a fever, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and possibly diarrhea. However, listeria can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, and death in extreme cases.
A 2011 listeria outbreak traced to a Colorado cantaloupe producer killed 30 people and sickened 146 in over 28 states. And in 2012 14 people were sickened by suspected listeria outbreak in ricotta cheese that forced Whole Foods to recall almost 5,000 pounds of cheese.