June 29, 2015 — Blue Bell Creameries started pulling ice cream products off the market about one month before officially announcing a recall due to Listeria contamination, the Dallas Morning News reports.
In mid-February, Blue Bell quietly began reclaiming products from retailers and institutional customers, including hospitals. The “withdrawal” came about a month before the company announced its first recall in 108 years.
Product withdrawals are normally reserved for “minor violations” and require no broad public notice. Blue Bell was notified of a positive Listeria test on February 13, but did not start recalling products until March 13.
The recall was initiated after health officials in Kansas linked Blue Bell ice cream to five cases of listeriosis in hospitalized patients, including three who died. At least 10 cases have been confirmed, but there are several more unconfirmed reports.
It was not until several weeks after Blue Bell learned of the illnesses in Kansas that the magnitude of the problem became clear. Blue Bell eventually recalled all of their ice cream and shut down production at all four facilities. Products still have not returned to store shelves.
Listeria monocytogenes is a very serious problem when it contaminates food production facilities. Unlike most bacteria, it grows under refrigeration temperatures. When ingested, it can cause invasive infections like meningitis. The infection can rapidly become life-threatening, especially for young children, older adults, and people with vulnerable immune systems. Pregnant women can also suffer a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other complications.
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