- So far, Blue Bell Ice Cream products found in gas stations and grocery stores have not been linked to the bacterial contamination that was a factor in the deaths of three Witchita, Kansas, hospital patients.
Blue Bell has stopped production at its Broken Arrow production facility. The Brenham-based ice cream company voluntarily shut down the plant to determine how products it produces there were contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.
The move is almost two weeks after the company issued its first ever recall after five patients at a Wichita, Kansas, hospital were infected with listeria, a life-threatening, food-bourne bacteria illness. Early last week, it was reported that Texas health officials linked the outbreak to a single machine at its Brenham facility, however, the contaminated chocolate ice cream that health officials believe is the culprit for the outbreak is now being reported to have come from the Broken Arrow facility, according to Tulsa World. Blue Bell products tainted with listeria have also been confirmed in South Carolina.
None of the products recalled by the company or associated with the contamination are sold in grocery stores and other retail outlets. Thus far, none of the popular, direct-to-consumer half gallon and pint ice creams are linked to the contamination.
“The Broken Arrow operations will be suspended so that our team of expert consultants can conduct a careful and complete examination to determine the exact cause of the contamination. We have notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of our action and we remain committed to being transparent with that federal agency. Once our investigation is complete and we have made all necessary improvements, it will return to operation,” Blue Bell CEO Paul Krus said in a statement.
So far, no more cases of listeriosis have been confirmed. However, health officials say symptoms of the illness may not appear until three to 70 days after a person has consumed the bacteria.