The CDC has increased the official count of the number of Blue Bell Listeria victims from 5 to 8, and in so doing added a second “cluster.” This cluster has been identified in the State of Texas and marks the first time the CDC has confirmed that illnesses outside Kansas were linked to the Listeria recently found in Blue Bell ice cream.
The original cluster was identified earlier this year when 5 patients in a Kansas hospital, three of whom later died, were linked to blue Bell ice cream through the work of health investigators as far away as South Carolina. The five hospital victims all acquired Listeria during residency at the same hospital, but the link to Blue Bell ice cream (served to patients) was not known until samples of ice cream were tested in South Carolina and found to contain that particular strain of Listeria.
And now a second cluster has been identified, consisting of at least 3 adult Texas residents who acquired listeriosis between 2011 and 2014. The Listeria monocytogenes strain affecting those victims has been found to be highly related to the strains identified in testing of Blue Bell 3oz. single serving chocolate ice cream produced at the Broken Arrow facility in Oklahoma. Once again, even though those victims were identified as having Listeria as long as three or four years ago, the identification of those strains of Listeria in blue Bell ice cream was only recently discovered. In fact, it was the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), along with the help of the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), who collected samples of the left-over Blue Bell ice cream at the hospital in reaction to the original cluster that enabled health investigators to make the connection. Doing so allowed health officials in Texas to unravel the mystery surrounding those Texas victim’s illnesses and exposure to Listeria.
“What is so scary about this,” says Listeria Lawyer Ron Simon, “is that Listeria contamination of Blue Bell ice cream has apparently been going on for years undetected. It took a certain amount of luck, as well as the tragic death of several individuals, to finally unravel the mystery.” Simon explained, given his years of experience in prosecuting Listeria and other food borne illness cases, that there are obviously severe problems at the Broken Arrow plant, and possibly the Brenham, Texas facilities, that need to be addressed. “For Listeria to have grown and contaminated product over such a lengthy period of time means that methods used to prevent the spread of food borne pathogens like Listeria have clearly failed,” Simon explained.
Two Clusters May Only be the Beginning
Two Clusters may only be the beginning of Blue Bell’s difficulties. Only a couple of days ago, on April 7, 2015, the FDA notified Blue Bell that Listeria monocytogenes had also been found in pints of Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream – also produced at the currently closed Broken Arrow location. “Unfortunately, a problem of this duration and intensity,” says Listeria lawyer Simon, “leads me to believe that all product from the Broken Arrow location is suspect.” Additional testing, and health officials from around the country looking at previously unresolved Listeria cases, may yet find that Blue Bell ice cream was the likely source of those illnesses. For now, consumers should watch out for ice cream produced at the Broken Arrow plant. These products are marked with a date code ending in O, P, Q, R, S or T on the bottom of the carton.
Any individuals who have been diagnosed with Listeria in the last several years, and ate Blue Bell ice cream, may want to discuss their illness with their physician and then, to protect possible legal rights, speak to a Listeria lawyer. The Listeria lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates are available at 1-888-335-4901.