On Friday Blue Bell Creameries announced that they have discovered listeria again in their products. This is not the first time the Texas-based company has dealt with such problems: in spring the company stopped the production of Blue Bell ice cream in 25 states. In 2014 Blue Bell was the number one ranked ice cream brand.
In April 2014 there were ten reported cases of listeria infection in four states and they seemed to be connected with the company’s frozen treats. Three of the patients were hospitalized in Kansas and later they died.
In spring the bacteria was found on an ice cream container. This time the company declared that listeria was found in one of its production plants. Fortunately the bacteria was not found in any ice cream products, especially since after the incident in April they have reintroduced their products on the market again, after the company’s plants in Sylacauga, Alabama, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and Brenham, Texas had been closed. In November Blue Bell started to gradually reintroduce their ice cream to the store shelves. It seems that the phase of distributing ice cream in Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Kentucky will continue as planned.
The company explained that ever since the Blue Bell plants reopened they have tested every batch of ice cream and they will continue with the testing. None of the products have tested positive for listeria. The company explained that they are dealing with listeria using a process of seeking and destroying.
Blue Bell expects to occasionally find such microbiological indicators in their facilities, but they are confident about their improved testing system. The company also pointed out that listeria is often found in the natural environment and entirely eradicating the bacteria is never a certain thing for any manufacturer.
Blue Bell Creameries was linked to ten cases of listeriosis and since three of the patients died the US Department of Justice has the company under criminal investigation, according to US officials. The prosecutors are trying to find out whether the executives of the company did something wrong when handling the ice cream.
Listeriosis is a fatal infection. It is caused mainly by consuming food contaminated with the bacteria and it highly affects older adults, especially those with weakened immune systems, newborn and pregnant women. In the US around 1.600 cases of listeria infection are reported every year, according to CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 260 of the cases result in the death of the patients.
Listeria is found in water, soil, certain animals such as cattle and poultry and raw milk. It is very dangerous because compared to other bacteria it can survive and expand at cold temperatures in food processing plants and refrigerators.
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