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Ice cream kills three - deaths linked to listeria bacteria

Three hospital patients have died and two have been sickened by listeriosis linked to single-serve ice cream products from US company Blue Bell Creameries since last year, health officials said on Friday.

The five adults became ill from January 2014 to January of this year with one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria while hospitalized with unrelated illnesses, Kansas health officials said in a news release.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment declined to identify the hospital.

Three strains of the bacteria were found in products made at privately held Blue Bell Creameries’ main facility at Brenham, Texas, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is investigating the contamination.

Hospital records that were available on four of the patients showed they had been served Blue Bell ice cream products, but it was not clear if these products came from Brenham, the FDA said. 

How does ice cream get contaminated with listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a rare, potentially fatal illness caused by food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. 

The condition, which primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weak immunity, causes fever and muscle aches. It is sometimes preceded by diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

According to a report on Time.com, the bacteria can grow at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius. The FDA says bacteria has more opportunity to grow the longer food, especially ice cream and cheese, is stored in the fridge. 

Blue Bell said it traced the problem to one machine that produced a limited number of snack items, and that it has shut down the line where the products were made. 

It was the first product recall for the 108-year-old company, it said. 

The FDA contacted Blue Bell about the illnesses four weeks ago and the company has retrieved the products, said Ricky Dickson, Blue Bell vice president of sales.

Sources: Reuters, Time

 

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