Based on the information that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has at this time, it recommends that consumers do not eat any Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility and that retailers and institutions do not sell or serve them. Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility can be identified by checking for letters “O,” “P,” “Q,” “R,” “S,” and “T” following the “code date” printed on the bottom of the product package.
This advice is especially important for people at higher risk for listeriosis, including pregnant women, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is a life-threatening infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
Initially, Kansas reported five people infected with one of four strains of Listeria monocytogenes who were all hospitalized at the same hospital for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Of the four ill people for whom information is available on the foods eaten in the month before Listeria infection, all four consumed milkshakes made with a single-serving Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops” while they were in the hospital. Whole genome sequences of Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from these ice cream products were highly related to sequences of Listeria isolated from four of the patients. These Blue Bell brand ice cream products were made at the company’s Texas facility.
Investigators later isolated Listeria monocytogenes from single-serving Blue Bell brand 3-ounce institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups (not “Scoops”) collected from the Kansas hospital and from the company’s Oklahoma production facility. These isolates were indistinguishable from each other by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). The pattern is rare. The CDC searched the PulseNet database and identified six patients with listeriosis between 2010 and 2014 who had Listeria isolates with PFGE patterns indistinguishable from those of Listeria isolated from Blue Bell brand 3-ounce institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups. Investigation to determine whether these illnesses are related to exposure to Blue Bell products is ongoing.