Listeria monocytogenes is a deadly bacterium that kills approximately 260 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is a bacterium that resides in the digestive tracts of animals and can spread to humans if crops contaminated by animal waste aren’t sufficiently washed. According to preventative medicine experts, it can be very difficult to completely clean foods and prevent outbreaks of listeria. After being in business for over a century with no food recalls, Blue Bell Creameries – a company that started out at its Brenham, Texas, facility and produces much-loved ice creams – is now associated with the fatal threat of listeria. Three people recently died in a Kansas hospital after eating Blue Bell products made in the company’s Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, plant.
Operations at the Broken Arrow plant were suspended voluntarily on April 3, 2015, because 3-ounce food service chocolate cups with tab lids used at hospitals tested positive for listeria. The tainted products were available only to Blue Bell’s institutional and food service accounts. The products were immediately recalled, in addition to strawberry and vanilla food service/institutional cups. Blue Bell announced that they identified the machine in which the contaminated products were produced.
Beginning April 4, Blue Bell worked with retail outlets to ensure that all products produced in Broken Arrow were removed. The products can be identified because they have code date endings of O, P, Q, R, S, or T, which can be found at the bottom of cartons.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notified Blue Bell on April 7 that a pint of Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream tested positive for listeria. That pint was produced in the Broken Arrow plant on February 12, 2015. All products produced in that production line from February 12 through March 27, 2015, were immediately recalled by Blue Bell. These products had code date endings of either S or T.
In this continuing series, learn more about listeria and who is most at risk from exposure to the bacteria.