Five patients at Via Christi St. Francis hospital in Wichita, Kansas developed listeriosis after eating ice cream products from the Blue Bell creamery in Brenham, Texas, the Associated Press reports. Three are dead.
The five patients were hospitalized between December 2013 and January 2015 for unrelated causes, hospital spokeswoman Maria Loving told the AP. Information was available for four of the five on what foods they had eaten in the month before infection. The CDC found that all four had ingested milkshakes made with a single-serving Blue Bell product called “Scoops.”
Bacteria isolated from the patients matched strains from Blue Bell products obtained in Texas and South Carolina. The FDA said that the bacteria had been found in samples of several Blue Bell products, including Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Cotton Candy Bars, Scoops, Vanilla Stick Slices, Almond Bars and No Sugar Added Moo Bars.
Listeriosis is a life-threatening infection. “Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has invasive infection, meaning the bacteria spread from their intestines to the blood, causing bloodstream infection, or to the central nervous system, causing meningitis,” according to the AP.
Blue Bell, the third-highest selling brand of ice cream in the country (according to its own website), announced a product recall for the first time in its 108-year history.
“Anytime is one too much,” Paul Kruse, the company’s president and CEO, told The Houston Chronicle. “This is the only thing we do: We make and sell ice cream. It’s who we are and we’ve got to do it right.”
Update, 4:45 p.m. – The AP has rewritten its story significantly, citing Kansas health officials who said food-borne illness linked to some Blue Bell products “maybe have been a contributing factor” in the three deaths, but also including a statement from Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Sara Belfry said Saturday, who said that the deaths were not the result of listeriosis. The recall, however, appears to still be in place.