April 22, 2015 — Health officials have confirmed that the Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream dates back to 2010 and has sickened at least 10 people in Kansas, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an update to report that two additional patients, one each from Arizona and Oklahoma, were confirmed to be part of the outbreak by whole genome sequencing.
All ten victims were hospitalized and three deaths have been reported in Kansas.
Illness onset dates ranged from January 2010 through January 2015. Experts at the CDC told CNN, “the fact that it was the same strain over the last five years suggests it could have lurked somewhere in the factory the whole time.”
It is possible that there are more cases that were never reported. Health department officials are reopening cases of listeriosis that were never linked to specific products, and they could discover more cases linked to Blue Bell ice cream.
The original cases were only reported because they occurred in hospitalized patients in Kansas who were all given milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream.
On Monday, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all of its products currently on the market from all of its production facilities, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
Health officials warn:
“CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any Blue Bell brand products, and that institutions and retailers do not serve or sell them.”
It is unknown how Listeria contaminated the ice cream, but it probably did not come from the milk because Blue Bell only uses pasteurized milk. Listeria can also be carried on foods like nuts. Once introduced into a facility, the bacteria can live on surfaces for years. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria grows under refrigeration temperatures.
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