Two weeks after Blue Bell Creameries expanded the recall of products linked to an outbreak of listeriosis that resulted in three deaths, several major grocery chains have taken things a step farther by removing all of the company’s products from the ice cream aisle.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Sam’s Club, Kroger and H-E-B stores pulled Blue Bell ice cream products out of an abundance of caution over the weekend.
The product removal comes just days after Blue Bell announced it would temporarily close its Broken Arrow, OK, production plant, which was previously connected to contaminated ice cream.
“We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide our consumers with safe products and to preserve the trust we have built with them and their families for more than a century,” the company said in a statement about the plant closing. “The Broken Arrow operations will be suspended so that our team of expert consultants can conduct a careful and complete examination to determine the exact cause of the contamination.”
Representatives for H-E-B say the decision to remove the treats from stores was a “precautionary measure due to food safety concerns.” However, the chain says it will work with Blue Bell to refill its ice cream offerings.
A spokesman for Blue Bell tells the Star Tribune that the company is aware of the grocers’ decision to pull products and respected the action.
Blue Bell previously recalled several ice cream items in mid-March after tests linked the products to an outbreak of listeriosis that sickened five people in Kansas, three of whom later died.
A joint investigation found that certain Blue Bell brand ice cream products are the likely source of some or all of the people’s illnesses.
The five people who became ill in Kansas were confirmed to be infected with one of four strains of Listeria monocytogenes. All five people – older in age – were hospitalized at the same hospital for unrelated problems before developing invasive listeriosis, suggesting they were infected at the hospital, the CDC reports.
Investigators say the illnesses began between January 2014 and January 2015. Although some of the illnesses began more than a year ago, the listeria cluster identified earlier this month shows that some of the infections are indistinguishable, meaning they are likely from the same source.
Of the patients infected, four consumed milkshakes made with a single serving Blue Bell brand ice cream called Scoops while they were in the hospital.
Recalled products included three-ounce chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream cups with tab lids served in institutional and food service areas, such as hospitals. The original recall also included widely sold products such as Scoops, Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Cotton Candy Bars, Vanilla Stick Slices, Almond Bars and No Sugar Added Moo Bars.
Sam’s Club, Kroger join H-E-B in pulling all Blue Bell Ice Cream products from their shelves [The Minneapolis Star Tribune]