Blue Bell may be a Texas staple, homegrown in the heart of the state and standing for more than a century, but a worrisome listeria outbreak at the creamery’s facilities is threatening its reputation, and the people who buy its products. For weeks, the company began recalling some of its ice cream products, but now the recall has expanded to all of the brand’s items, including frozen yogurts, sherbets and various frozen novelties. The fear comes from the unknown source of the infestation, which the company insists it is getting close to discovering. Until then, though, all of Blue Bell’s products should be avoided or discarded, even if consumed without symptoms.
As of April 2015, 10 people have experienced symptoms linked to the contamination, including three in Texas and five in Kansas. Three of the Kansas cases ended in the patients’ deaths, so this is a serious concern for consumers who regularly purchase the company’s products.
What’s worse, the CDC has tracked these cases and found that the contamination may date back as far as 2010, suggesting long-term negligence by the company, and a lack of quality controls. The fact that consumers were not informed of a possible outbreak is perhaps even more worrying.
The bacteria is not normally a major threat to healthy people, whose immune systems are adept at eliminating the bacteria. However, it is a serious concern for immune compromised people and pregnant women, as the bacteria is capable of infecting the amniotic fluid and placenta nourishing a developing baby. Pregnant women who suffer from listeria infection are much more likely to experience miscarriage or premature delivery. And developing children may be born with profound health complications, such as mental retardation.
Blue Bell insists that it is close to finding the cause of the contamination, but the company should never have kept it a secret in the first place. And it must answer for its lapse in quality controls. Lawsuits are beginning to form against the ice cream giant, and victims of listeria contamination are encouraged to come forward and explore their legal rights.