Updated, 4/6/2015, 11:33 a.m. The Houston Chronicle says that Sam's Club and Kroger's have also pulled all Blue Bell products from their shelves as a precaution.
San Antonio-based grocery store chain H-E-B has issued a recall on all Blue Bell products. The company has stores all across Houston. A consumer alert statement received today reads:
"Blue Bell Ice Cream has voluntarily recalled some of its products while it continues to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. H-E-B has decided to withdraw all existing Blue Bell products on its shelves as a precautionary measure due to food safety concerns. Working with Blue Bell, we will replenish our shelves with new product as soon as feasible.
Customers with concerns may return the product to H-E-B stores for a full refund. Customers with questions can contact H-E-B Customer Relations at 1-855-432-4438 between the hours of 8AM and 5PM Monday through Friday."
The H-E-B recall follows the news that the Blue Bell ice cream production facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, has been shut down because of three deaths in Kansas City from listeriosis. Five people in all were infected.
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause deadly food poisoning, especially in older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women are especially at risk, as according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. Others may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.
The contamination seems limited to individual cups in packaging without bar codes. These types of products are provided to big institutions such as hospitals and include the following:
- Ice Cream Cup Chocolate (3 FL OZ), SKU #453
- Ice Cream Cup Strawberry (3 FL OZ), SKU #452
- Ice Cream Cup Vanilla (3 FL OZ), SKU #451
NBC News reported that the contaminated containers that resulted in the three deaths were traced back to the Oklahoma facility. Those containers are marked with the letters "O," "P," "Q," "R," "S" or "T" following the "code date" printed on the bottom of the package.
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The Los Angeles Times says that listeria was additionally found in single-serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwiches, No Sugar Added Mooo Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Great Divide Bars, Vanilla Stick Slices and Almond Bars. While the infection is said to have contributed to the patients' deaths, at this time it is not thought to have been the only factor involved.
Blue Bell says its recall does not include half-gallons, pints, quarts, three-gallons or other three-ounce cups.
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. We have notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of our action and we remain committed to being transparent with that federal agency."
According to the NBC News story, ten products recalled earlier in March were from a production line at a plant at the company's headquarters in Brenham. It's the first recall in the company's 108-year history.
Blue Bell is continuing to operate its other plants and to supply retail stores and institutional customers.
Consumers with questions may call Blue Bell directly at 979-836-7977.