After increasing health concerns, Texas-based Blue Bell Ice Creameries decided to pull all of its products from stores nationwide because the frozen desserts have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The decision, announced Monday, was a result of an enhanced sampling program initiated by Blue Bell which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17, 2015, and March 27, 2015, contained the bacteria. This latest test confirmed the company now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants and as previously reported five patients were treated in Kansas and three in Texas after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
“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.”
The voluntary recall includes all ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen shakes manufactured by the company. Blue Bell distributes products to approximately half of the states in the US, including many in the South and Midwest.
Blue Bell issued its first recall in company history last month recall when an outbreak of Listeriosis was linked to ice cream products manufactured at its production facility in Brenham, Texas. This recall was later expanded to include other products. According to Blue Bell, on March 22, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported a single positive test for Listeria monocytogenes on a chocolate ice cream cup originating from a hospital in Wichita, Kansas. This cup was produced in the Oklahoma plant on April 15, 2014.
Authorities say five adults were infected with Listeriosis from January 2014 to January 2015. The five individuals were all patients who were treated at a single hospital in Kansas and were served ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries’ single-serving products and milkshakes made from these products, according to hospital records. Three deaths have been reported. Listeriosis did not cause the deaths, though it may have been a contributing factor, according to Kansas health officials.
“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.”
To ensure safety, Blue Bell announced it is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at every manufacturing facility. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility that closed earlier this month will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.
The company said it expects to resume distribution on a limited basis soon.