The Investigation into the Blue Bell Listeria outbreak is a tale of numerous departments working to put together disparate pieces of a complex puzzle. At the center has been the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) which identified at least five individuals who had contracted Listeria between December of 2013 and January of 2015 at Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital in Kansas. The victims, several of whom had been hospitalized for non-listeria health concerns, were residents of Ford, Harvey, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte Counties. At least three of those identified at Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital died as a result of, or in part due to, listeriosis. But because the Kansas victims became ill over the course of a year, and because they tested positive for distinct (though similar) strains, they were not initially deemed to be related to a single source.
It was not until February of this year that health inspectors in South Carolina, conducting routine testing, discovered as many as 7 strains of Listeria in Blue Bell Ice Cream. South Carolina health officials reported the strains to the FDA, who in turn looked at isolates that had been uploaded into PulseNet, a repository of reported food borne pathogens that have been serotyped and their “genetic fingerprint” uploaded so state and federal health authorities can identify possible outbreaks. It was then that they noted that several of the rare strains of Listeria that has sickened the patients at Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital were a match to the strains identified by South Carolina.
Once the FDA and Kansas authorities became aware of the link to Blue Bell Ice Cream, the Texas Department of State Health Services went to the Blue Bell facilities, located at 1101 S Blue Bell Rd, Brenham, TX, and conducted testing of the surfaces and products. The tests revealed that one of the production lines was, in fact, contaminated with the outbreak strains of Listeria.
The KDHE has confirmed that Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital served Blue Bell Ice Cream, being unaware of the contamination. And Blue Bell, though it has not issued an official recall, is telling consumers who have the product that may be contaminated to discard it.
National Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon, a national leader in food safety, is representing victims in this outbreak. To speak to one of the Listeria Lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates, headquartered in Texas, call 1-888-335-4901 or 713-335-4837.