CDC Warning: Avoid Blue Bell Creameries Amid Listeria Outbreak
Ice-Cream Recall Has (Not Fudge) Ripple Effect
Two days after Blue Bell Creameries issued a nationwide recall of its ice cream, prompting the company’s CEO to deliver a public apology for the product’s link to listeria, health officials reported the outbreak has been an ongoing problem since 2010.
The century-old business whose frozen goodness has legions of fans now is being questioned for acting too late.
“When there’s a recall and somebody does something quickly and when they handle it properly, we forgive it,” food-industry analyst Phil Lempert told The New York Times. “When it’s the entire product line or the entire company…people are very concerned.”
The recall involves eight million gallons of ice cream, as well as frozen yogurt, sherbet and other snacks. It is expected the recall will take a couple of weeks to complete. The products have been identified as the culprits in three deaths – all of them in Kansas – and seven illnesses – in Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. The timeline of events runs from January of 2010 to January of 2015.
“We’re heartbroken over the situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers,” CEO Paul Kruse said in a video posted on the company’s Website. “Our entire history has been dedicated to making the very best and highest-quality ice cream we possibly could, and we’re committed to fixing the problem. Ice cream is a joy and a pleasure to eat. It certainly is for me, and I do it every day. And it should never be a cause for concern. And for that, we do apologize, and we’re going to get it right.”
Dr. Robert Tauxe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, said the Blue Bell Creameries case is not the most serious listeria outbreak but likely the longest.
“It was an outbreak that went on for five years,” Tauxe told NBC News. “But it was like one case a year. It was very intermittent.”
Listeria, a potentially fatal pathogen, thrives in cool and wet environs such as refrigerators and freezers. In the past, listeria has plagued facilities that manufacture cheese, fruit and meat. It is difficult to get rid of, and, oftentimes, plants have to close and relocate to avoid a recurrence of the threat.
“Food-safety experts say listeria…has previously prompted food companies to shutter plants entirely since it is difficult to destroy even through exhaustive plant cleanings,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
The CDC said in a statement titled “Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Blue Bell Creameries Products” consumers should not eat any Blue Bell Creameries products, and restaurants and stores should not serve or sell them. Consumers who have Blue Bell Creameries products at home can return them to the store at which they were purchased for a refund.
Those most susceptible to listeria are babies, seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.