The outbreak now consists of two clusters of illnesses that are likely linked to Blue Bell brand ice cream products. The outbreak involves eight people infected with outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes; eight people are reported from Kansas (5) and Texas (3).
Cluster 1 consists of five patients reported from Kansas during January 2014 through January 2015 who were all hospitalized at a single hospital for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Of the four ill people for whom information is available on the foods eaten in the month before Listeria infection, all consumed milkshakes made at the hospital with a Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops.” Whole genome sequences of Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from four of the patients were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from “Scoops” and two other products made on the same line at the company’s Texas facility. These products were recalled by Blue Bell Creameries on March 13, 2015.
Cluster 2 consists of three patients reported from Texas during 2011 through 2014 who were all hospitalized for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Whole genome sequences of their Listeria monocytogenes strains were highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from another Blue Bell ice cream product, 3 oz. institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups made at the Oklahoma production facility. The cup products were recalled by Blue Bell Creameries on March 23, 2015.
Three additional patients with listeriosis during 2010 through 2012 whose isolates have PFGE patterns similar to those of others in the cluster have been identified in the PulseNet database; further molecular laboratory testing is under way to determine whether these illnesses may be related to this outbreak. Results of this testing will be reported once they are available.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently isolated Listeria monocytogenes strains from a 1-pint container of Blue Bell brand banana pudding ice cream collected from the company’s Oklahoma production facility. This contaminated product was produced in the same facility but on a different line from the 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups previously recalled.
On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries reported that they had voluntarily suspended operations at their Oklahoma production facility. On April 7, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries announced a third product recall that included banana pudding ice cream pints and other products made on the same line that were produced between February 12, 2015 and March 27, 2015 at their Oklahoma facility. Further testing of environmental and product samples from Blue Bell Creamery facilities is ongoing.
Blue Bell Creameries previously issued two other recalls. On March 13, 2015, the company removed from the market “Scoops” and other products made on the same line at their Texas facility. On March 23, 2015, the company recalled 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors made at their Oklahoma facility.
CDC continues to recommend that consumers do not eat any Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility (including the recalled products) and that retailers and institutions should not sell or serve them. This advice is particularly important for consumers at higher risk for listeriosis, including pregnant women, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.