Blue Bell Creamery Recalls All Products After Listeria Outbreak

Blue Bell Creamery, maker of novelty ice cream products and traditional ice cream products, recently learned one of their scooping machines was contaminated with listeria after three people got sick. When Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined the source of the contamination, Blue Bell Creamery agreed to voluntarily recall all of their novelty ice cream products, which consisted of pre-scooped ice cream produced using the contaminated machine.

ice-cream-dipper-584463-m.jpgThis amounted to a small percentage of Blue Bell Creamery’s total sales, and the company said the recall was only out of extreme caution. Ice cream packaged in a container, which accounts for most of its products, was not at risk for contamination. Now, the company has expanded its voluntary recall to include all products.

According to a recent news article from the Wall Street Journal, this Blue Bell recall constitutes one of the broadest recalls of a product line in U.S. history, and highlights just how difficult it is to find the source of a potentially deadly strain of bacteria.

As our Greenville personal injury attorneys can explain, listeria technically describes 10 different subspecies but usually refers to listeria L. monocytogenes, which primarily affects pregnant women, children, and people with compromised immune systems. The bacteria can lead to serious infections, such as sepsis, and has a global mortality rate of around 20 percent. It is normally considered very rare, and is transmitted by consuming contaminated foods.

Following the initial outbreak, and voluntary recall of novelty products, the ice cream maker, which is one of America’s largest, instituted a stepped-up safety testing protocol. This additional testing found contaminated samples throughout the production process. In the initial outbreak, three patients died from listeria-related illness. Listeria was identified in the Texas facility first, and now also at the company’s Oklahoma production facility. It is clear they are having trouble containing the contamination.

Company officials say they are trying to do the right thing and will make sure everyone is safe before resuming production and sales. One of the main fears is people may already have contaminated products in their freezers at home. Unlike other dairy products, ice cream has not only been pasteurized, but is kept at freezing temperatures, so it has a relatively long shelf-life compared to many food items. It is not uncommon for an unopened ice cream container to last over two years. CDC and Blue Bell are warning customers to get rid of those products sitting in home freezers.

Health officials are particularly concerned, because listeria spreads very quickly and thrives at cold temperatures. This makes it very difficult to completely sterilize the production facility, even when production is completely stopped. If even a small about of bacteria survives the decontamination process, the bacteria could quickly spread, and things would be as bad as they were prior to sterilization. For this reason, the recall is expected to take several weeks, and extremely thorough safety inspections will be required before production can resume.

The company is also facing financial concerns, as there will not be revenue earned during the recall and shutdown, a situation was has proven catastrophic for other companies in the past.

Contact the Greenville, South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Blue Bell Recall Shows Difficulty of Controlling Listeria, April 21, 2015, Wall Street Journal

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