For those of us in the South, summertime is just around the corner (or let’s face it…the humidity that hits you in the face when you walk outside pretty much says it is already here), and what says summer more than sweet, scrumptious Louisiana strawberries, strawberry cheesecake snowballs (with condensed milk, of course), and, the All American, favorite summer dessert of all summer desserts - ice cream. But if ice cream is on your shopping list, make sure you are aware of a recent and expanding recall by Blue Bell Creameries. This recall comes after 8 cases, which include 3 deaths, of Listeria monocytogenes that have contaminated ice cream and several other Blue Bell products. To help you and your family avoid this issue until Blue Bell can get this all sorted out, here are some facts about this situation and the disease behind it.
What is Listeriosis?
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can cause contamination of food and can lead to rare, but serious, medical problems in certain people. The symptoms of listeriosis include fever, headache, malaise, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea after ingesting a contaminated food product. The most common foods associated with listeriosis include unpasteurized milk and soft cheese, deli meats, hot dogs, and unwashed vegetables. If you have ingested a food contaminated with Listeria, the window for becoming ill is variable and ranges from 1 day up to 3 weeks.
Who is at greatest risk for Listeriosis?
The highest risk populations are those with low or non-functioning immune systems, those over 65 years of age, and pregnant women. There is a substantial risk that a pregnant woman who becomes infected with Listeria can pass this infection to her unborn child. In some cases, this can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or serious medical illness in the newborn period. This is a major reason why, if you’ve been pregnant before, your obstetrician has almost surely recommended that you avoid soft cheese and deli meat until your little miracle is born.
How many people have been affected by Listeria due to the Blue Bell ice cream?
At this time the CDC confirms 8 cases of Listeriosis since 2011 that have been linked to the Blue Bell products. Five of these cases were confirmed in a single Kansas hospital from January 2014 through January 2015, and 3 of these patients have died. The remaining 3 cases were confirmed in patients from a hospital in Texas between 2011-2014. There are ongoing investigations into several other cases of Listeria to see if these cases may also be related to the Blue Bell ice cream outbreak.
What products are involved?
When the first recall was issued on March 13, 2015, the products involved included 10 frozen snack items including single serving ice cream bars such as Great Divide Bars, SCOOPS single serve ice cream, and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie sandwiches (click here to see images of these products). These products had been manufactured on a single product line at the Brenham, Texas production plant. The next recall came on March 23, 2015 and included 3 oz single serve cups of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavored ice cream that were produced at the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant in April 2014 (click here to see these products). And most recently, on April 7, 2015, the recall grew substantially when certain pints and half gallons of ice cream as well as quarts and pints of sherbet (click here to see these products) that were also produced at the Oklahoma plant were recalled after a pint of banana pudding ice cream tested positive for Listeria.
How do you know if you have one of these products?
It is important to note that not all Blue Bell products are involved at this time. You will need to look at the container of ice cream or sherbet or the box of ice cream pops to find the specific UPC or product codes. Any code dates, which can be found on the bottom of the ice cream or sherbet package, that end in the letters “O,” “P.” “Q,” “R,” “S,” or “T” indicates that the product was produced at the Oklahoma plant and should therefore, be thrown away. Here is an example of what you are looking for:
To see a full list of the products involved in this recall with the specific UPC and code dates, then click here.
By their own word (at the Blue Bell website), this is the company’s first recall ever, in over 108 years in business:
“For the first time in 108 years, Blue Bell announces a product recall.”
If you’d like more information, take a look at BlueBell.com’s own recall page by clicking here, which has even more specifics about the potentially contaminated products and what exactly the Blue Bell company is doing to address the issue.
As always though, if you are concerned that someone who has eaten a recalled Blue Bell product begins showing signs of listeriosis, call your healthcare professional immediately to discuss what steps you may need to take.
Update April 21, 2015: As of April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries issued a recall for ALL of its products including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks given that additional samples of ice cream have tested positive for Listeria. This recall effects all Blue Bell products that have been distributed across 23 states. Click here to see that latest notice of recall.