The FDA issued a consumer advisory about some Texas-made Blue Bell ice cream products Friday, after three patients who had eaten the ice cream in a Kansas hospital died of a foodborne illness.
The illnesses prompted the Brenham, Texas-based creamery to issue the first recall in its 108-year history. Blue Bell has stopped production and distribution of ice cream products from that line and has removed them from stores and any other retail outlets.
The problem was discovered about a month ago, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse told NBC 5. He said the company picked up the affected products approximately three weeks ago from hospitals and stores.
The contaminated products were traced back to one machine, which has been shut down, Kruse said.
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This is the first time in 108 years the company has experienced this type of problem, he added.
The affected products include the following novelty items made on the line:
- Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
- Great Divide Bar
- Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
- Cotton Candy Bar
- Vanilla Stick Slices
- Almond Bar
- No Sugar Added Mooo Bar (regular Mooo Bars are not included)
Consumers should not eat these items and should discard any of these products they may have in their freezers.
The advisory does not include Blue Bell cups, pints or half gallons.
Recent laboratory tests of three ice cream products from the Brenham production line — Country Cookie, Great Divide and Scoops — indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause severe illness.
The company is calling back additional ice cream items because they were made on the same production line.
No Texas cases have been reported in connection to any Blue Bell products.
Five people in all developed listeriosis and three of them died at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita after eating products from the one production line at the Brenham creamery between December 2013 and January 2015, hospital officials say.
The patients who fell ill with listeriosis during their hospital stays had all initially been hospitalized for unrelated causes, hospital spokeswoman Maria Loving said.
The hospital was unaware that some items produced on one of the 25 production lines at Blue Bell's Central Texas creamery had been contaminated with listeria bacteria, Loving said.
She said all Blue Bell Creameries products were immediately removed from all Via Christi Health facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma once the risk was discovered.
"If you're worried about some sort of potential source of infection, and two weeks have gone by and nothing's happened to you, you're going to be fine," said Dr. Cedric Spak with Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
Spak said symptoms include vomiting, nausea and muscle ache, and they can appear suddenly.
He said those that are most at risk are those with compromised immune systems.
NBC 5's Holley Ford and Ray Villeda contributed to this report.