CDC reports that as of April 20, 2015, a total of ten patients infected with several strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from four states: Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). Illness onset dates ranged from January 2010 through January 2015. All ten patients were hospitalized. Three deaths were reported from Kansas.
The CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment report that there are five patients who were treated in a single hospital in Kansas and who 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. The most recent illness onset date was January 2015.
FDA was notified that the three strains related to the illnesses reported in Kansas 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.
On March 13, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries reported that it had removed the affected ice cream products from the market 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.
As part of the investigation, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), collected environmental samples, which are swabs from surfaces likely to come in contact with food, from the hospital kitchen.
They also collected samples of containers of Blue Bell ice cream still on hand at the hospital. Analysis of the environmental samples did not detect the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. However, one sample taken from a Blue Bell 3-ounce single serving chocolate ice cream cup manufactured in Blue Bell’s Broken Arrow, Okla., plant did show the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. On March 22, 2015, state and federal authorities notified Blue Bell of this finding.
The CDC reports that three patients reported from Texas had a Listeria monocytogenes strain that is highly related to the strains found in a sample taken from a Blue Bell 3-ounce single serving chocolate ice cream cup made at the company’s facility in Broken Arrow, Okla. Two additional patients, one from Arizona and one from Oklahoma, were confirmed by CDC to be part of the outbreak through whole genome sequencing which showed their strains of Listeria monocytogenes to be highly related to strains found in the Broken Arrow facility.
On March 23, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries issued a second recall, recalling three flavors of 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups—chocolate (SKU #453), strawberry (SKU #452) and vanilla (SKU #451)—with tab lids because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
These products were distributed in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming via food service accounts. The company reports that these products are not sold via retail outlets such as convenience stores and supermarkets, and this initial recall did not include Blue Bell Ice Cream half gallons, pints, quarts, 3 gallons or other 3 oz. cups. The product was sold to schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.
On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries announced that the firm had voluntarily suspended operations at its Broken Arrow, Okla., plant.
On April 7, 2015, FDA notified Blue Bell Creameries of Brenham, Texas, that Listeria monocytogenes was present in samples of Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints. FDA collected the samples as part of a joint inspection with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) of the Broken Arrow plant which began on March 23, 2015. During the inspection, the ODAFF collected a sample showing the presence of Listeria monocytogenes from a 3 oz. Blue Bell chocolate ice cream cup with a tab lid, which was part of an earlier recall by Blue Bell Creameries.
On April 7, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries expanded the recall of ice cream manufactured in its Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to include additional products that have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The company has reported that the recalled products were manufactured on the same production line that produced the ice cream that showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes and that the products were manufactured between February 12, 2015, and March 27, 2015.
The products being recalled are distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Additionally, Blue Bell Creameries has reported that on April 4, 2015, the firm began working with retail outlets to remove all products produced in Broken Arrow, Okla., from their service area. These products are identified with a code date ending in O, P, Q, R, S or T located on the bottom of the carton.
On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries of Brenham, Texas, voluntarily expanded its recall to include all of its products currently on the market because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Samples taken by the firm showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes inChocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17 and March 27, 2015. Although FDA environmental sampling has not shown the presence of Listeria monocytogenes on food contact surfaces in any Blue Bell facilities, sampling identified the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in other areas of the Blue Bell production facilities in Broken Arrow, Okla., and in Sylacauga, Ala.
Blue Bell Creameries has announced that on Monday, April 27, the firm would carry out an intensive cleaning and training program at all of its production facilities.
The inspectional observations of the most recent completed FDA inspections at the Blue Bell production facilities in Brenham, Texas, Broken Arrow, Okla., and Sylacauga, Ala. are available:
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.
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