Blue Bell recalls all products amid Listeria concerns

An outbreak of a foodborne illness linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products now includes three people in Texas who became ill, the CDC says (KTRK)

Blue Bell Ice Cream says it is voluntarily recalling all of its products amid Listeria concerns and will reintroduce products back into the market only after they've been tested and deemed safe.

The recall includes all of the company's ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. The recall extends to retail outlets 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, Wyoming and international locations.

Monday's decision came after a test conducted on the company's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17 and March 27 tested positive for the bacteria. This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants.

"We're committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe," said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president. "We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right."

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea; Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

So far, five patients were treated in Kansas and three in Texas after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

"At every step, we have made decisions in the best interest of our customers based on the evidence we had available at the time," Kruse said. "At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities and so we have taken this unprecedented step. We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem."

As a result, Blue Bell is implementing a procedure called "test and hold" for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. All products will be tested and held for release until tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.

In addition to the "test and hold" system, Blue Bell is implementing additional safety procedures and testing including:

- Expanding our already robust system of daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment

- Expanding our system of swabbing and testing our plant environment by 800 percent to include more surfaces

- Sending samples daily to a leading microbiology laboratory for testing

- Providing additional employee training

Blue Bell expects to resume distribution soon on a limited basis once it is confident in the safety of its product.

Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 1-866-608-3940 Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. CST or go to bluebell.com.
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