The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating an outbreak of listeriosis potentially linked to certain Blue Bell Creameries single serving ice cream products. Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
According to the CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, five patients who were treated in a single hospital in Kansas were infected with one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. Three of these strains, which are highly similar, have also been found in products manufactured at the Blue Bell Creameries production facility in Brenham, Texas. Illness onset dates range from January 2014 to January 2015.
FDA was notified that these three strains and four other rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found in samples of Blue Bell Creameries single serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and the Great Divide Bar ice cream products collected by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control during routine product sampling at a South Carolina distribution center, on February 12, 2015. These products are manufactured at Blue Bell Creameries’ Brenham facility.
The Texas Department of State Health Services, subsequently, collected product samples from the Blue Bell Creameries Brenham facility. These samples yielded Listeria monocytogenes from the same products tested by South Carolina and a third single-serving ice cream product, Scoops, which is also made on the same production line.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, hospital records available for four patients show that all were served ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries’ prepackaged, single-serving products and milkshakes made from these products. The hospital receives ice cream manufactured by Blue Bell Creameries, although it is not confirmed that the hospital receives ice cream only from the Brenham facility.
All five case patients are adults. Three deaths have been reported.
Blue Bell Creameries reports that it has removed the affected ice cream products from the market (see section below “What Products are Involved?”) by picking it up directly from the retailers and hospital settings it serves. The company has also shut down the production line where the products were made.
The FDA has moved quickly to investigate this issue and learn as much as possible to prevent additional people from becoming ill. We recognize that people will be concerned about these illnesses, and we will continue to provide updates and advice.
What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. 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 healthcare 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.
Who is at Risk?
Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.
What Products Are Involved?
Blue Bell Creameries reports that the following products were removed from the market. This action includes only the products listed below and does not include Blue Bell cups, pints or half gallons.
Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
SKU # 196
Great Divide Bar
Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
Cotton Candy Bar
Vanilla Stick Slices
6 pack Cotton Candy Bars
6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars
12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars*
*The regular Mooo Bars, available at grocery stores, are not subject to recall.
What Do Consumers Need To Do?
Consumers should not eat any of the products listed above. If these ice cream products are in your freezer, they should be thrown away, even if some of them have been eaten without anyone becoming ill.
Recommendations for preventing listeriosis are available at the CDC Listeria website:http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/prevention.html.
Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures, as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow.
For refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with the potentially contaminated ice cream, it is very important that the consumers thoroughly clean these areas
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
Consumers should follow these simple steps:
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
What Do Institutions and Retailers Need To Do?
Institutions and retailers should not sell or serve any products listed above. They should also take the following steps:
- Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
- Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
- Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.
- Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures. Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated products, and should be discarded.
Who Should be Contacted?
The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult http://www.fda.gov.