Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries issued a voluntary recall Monday night for all of its products on the market after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria.
The company "cannot say with certainty" how the bacteria was introduced to its facilities, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a statement. Blue Bell issued the recall that includes ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks distributed in 23 states and international locations because other products "have the potential to be contaminated," according to the statement.
"We're committed to doing the 100-percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe," Kruse said.
Blue Bell entered the Indianapolis market in 2010 after striking a deal to sell through Meijer stores. In return for investing $2.1 million to build a 12,000-square-foot cold-storage warehouse on a 2.9-acre site in Park 100, the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission approved a five-year tax abatement for the facility at 8155 Allison Ave. It ultimately would employ 24 people, including drivers and salespeople
The first recall in the family-owned creamery's 108-year history was issued last month after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked ice cream contaminated with listeria to three deaths at a Kansas hospital. Five others in Kansas and Texas were sickened with listeriosis, which can cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms.
The illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The most recently contaminated samples were discovered through a testing program the company initiated after its first recall, according to the statement.
Federal regulators say they're now aware of 10 listeria illnesses linked to ice cream and other products made by Blue Bell over the last five years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously reported eight illnesses from Kansas and Texas, including three deaths in Kansas.
The agency said Tuesday that two more illnesses have been confirmed in Oklahoma and Arizona.
CDC says those sickened fell ill between January 2010 and January 2015.
Monday's recall extends to retail outlets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.
The manufacturing facility in Oklahoma where operations were suspended earlier this month for sanitizing will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate the source of the bacteria, the statement said.
Blue Bell is implementing a process to test all of its products before releasing them to the market, with plans to resume limited distribution soon.
The company said it is also expanding its cleaning and sanitization system, beefing up its employee training, expanding its swabbing system by 800 percent to include more surfaces and is sending daily samples to a microbiology laboratory for testing.
Listeria primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, older adults and people with immune systems weakened by cancer, cancer treatments, or other serious conditions.