The potentially deadly strain of listeria bacteria linked to Blue Bell ice cream products has been found in a sample produced in the company’s Sylacauga, Ala., plant. It is the first evidence that Listeria contamination was not limited to the Texas and Oklahoma Blue Bell plants.
The family of a Florida man recovering in the hospital from a suspected bout of meningitis sent a half gallon of Blue Bell Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice cream to Kappa Laboratories in Miami for testing “on a whim” after hearing about the multistate Listeria outbreak, which has been blamed for 10 confirmed illnesses, three of which resulted in death.
Doctors didn’t test 75-year-old Brent McRae for listeriosis when he was admitted to the hospital in April, so it is unclear whether he developed meningitis as a complication of listeriois. However, his family and lawyer doubt it’s a coincidence that Mr. McRae ate the contaminated Blue Bell ice cream and then contracted a severe bacterial illness.
Until now, all of the Blue Bell samples that have tested positive for listeria contamination originated in the company’s two plants in Brenham, Texas, and Broken Arrow, Okla. A product code on the bottom of the carton provided by the McRae family confirms the contaminated ice cream was made at the company’s Alabama plant.
Blue Bell started recalling some of its ice cream products in March 2015, but eventually expanded its recall to all products on April 20.
All three Blue Bell plants have since suspended operations indefinitely while they undergo an overhaul in cleaning, repairs, and other modifications to bring production into compliance with federal health regulations.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection records show that sanitation problems existed in all of the Blue Bell plants for years, especially in the Oklahoma plant where the presence of listeria contamination was confirmed between March 2013 and February 2015.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Kappa Laboratories is FDA registered and contracts for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as private clients.
“We have just had this situation brought to our attention, and we, of course, take all such matters very seriously,” a Blue Bell spokesman said in response to the Houston Chronicle’s request for a comment. “We are reviewing the third-party lab report we have received, but because this overall situation involves litigation, we are not able to discuss any details of the matter.”
Source: Houston Chronicle