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Three dead in listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream

(Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post)

The Federal Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation into an ice cream-linked listeria outbreak that has left three dead in Kansas.

Blue Bell Creameries announced it recalled the affected products and had them removed from store shelves. "One of our machines produced a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem," the company said in a statement. (See below for a full list of products)

Three Kansas patients have died after eating contaminated Blue Bell Creameries ice cream while they were at the hospital. (Video: Reuters)

A total of five people became sick between January 2014 to January 2015 and were treated in the same Kansas hospital, according to the FDA. Among them, they carried four rare strains of listeria. Officials also detected three of those strains in a Texas Blue Bell production plant, where the company is based. Health departments in South Carolina and Texas also found listeria in certain Blue Bell products.

Listeria is a relatively rare illness, caused by bacteria that can live in water, certain animals and food made with raw milk (think: deli meats, dairy products and smoked seafood). The bacteria can grow in the cold and can be killed by either cooking or pasteurization.

Symptoms can appear within a few days to weeks and include fever, muscle aches and sometimes diarrhea. Older adults, pregnant women and newborns are particularly at risk at becoming sick after listeria exposure

A separate listeria outbreak was linked to pre-packaged caramel apples earlier this year. A total of 32 people became sick; 31 of them required hospitalization and at least one sick pregnant woman lost a fetus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 260 people die each year from listeria.

Blue Bell's cup, pint and half-gallon products are not affected by this current outbreak. The FDA has warned consumers not to eat any of these products:

  • Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
  • Great Divide Bar
  • Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
  • Cotton Candy Bar
  • Scoops
  • Vanilla Stick Slices
  • Almond Bars
  • 6 pack Cotton Candy Bars
  • 6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars
  • 12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars


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