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Ice Cream Tainted with Listeria Sickens Five, Kills Three

Filed March 17th, 2015 Julie Fidler

Three people in Kansas are dead after eating Blue Bell ice cream tainted with listeria.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five people in all were infected with listeria, all of whom were treated at the same hospital for unrelated problems. Four of the patients were infected by drinking milkshakes made with a single serving of Blue Bell’s Scoops ice cream at the hospital. The CDC said it believes the infections were acquired in the hospital, the Los Angeles Times (LA Times) reported.

The affected products were made on a single production line at the Blue Bell Creameries plant in Brenham, Texas. The listeria outbreak prompted the first recall in Blue Bell’s history. The bacteria were found in Blue Bell’s single-serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwiches, No Sugar Added Mooo Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Great Divide Bars, Vanilla Stick Slices and Almond Bars, the company said in a statement viewed by the LA Times.

“This withdrawal in no way includes our half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three-gallon ice cream or the majority of take-home frozen snack novelties,” the company said.

The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria causes listeriosis, which is marked by unusually high fever and muscle aches, and is sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. The illness is usually treated with antibiotics, according to the LA Times.

The largest listeria outbreak in U.S. history happened in 2011, when 147 illnesses, 33 deaths and 1 miscarriage occurred among residents in 28 states. The infections were linked to Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes produced Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado.

USA Today reported that the machine at the ice cream machine at the Blue Bell plant that produced the tainted products was shut down for days, possibly weeks before the outbreak after a test from health officials came back positive for listeria. Health officials said more cases could arise because it takes three to 70 days after consuming the bacteria for symptoms of listeriosis to occur. The South Carolina Health Department detected the four strains of listeria in Blue Bell products just last month.

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