MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Blue Bell Ice Cream, after weeks of gradual recalls, is pulling all of its products off store shelves.
The company announced Monday it is recalling its entire line of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and other frozen treats because they could be contaminated with Listeria.
Chris Block said that he and his family love Blue Bell ice cream and have been eating it for years.
They had some Monday in their freezer but said they would probably return it to the grocery store to get their money back.
Block is among millions listening to the warning put out by Blue Bell.
Three people have died and five others have fallen ill from the bacteria that may have come from Blue Bell products, health officials have said.
Blue Bell’s decision to pull all its products came after tests showed some half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream contained listeria.
“This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants,” the company said in a written statement. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities, and so we have taken this unprecedented step.
So far, Blue Bell has documented five cases of listeriosis in Kansas and three cases in Texas.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said three people in the state have died from listeria there over the past year, possibly due to Blue Bell products.
All five of the people who got sick in Kansas were patients being treated at the same hospital for unrelated causes, state health officials said
Lois Porter’s husband Richard was one of five patients at a Kanas hospital who contracted listeria within a one-year period. Three of them died and state health officials determined they had all been served blue bell ice cream.
“They are responsible for the purity of their product. Of course it’s their fault. But I do feel sorry for them. It may wreck their business,” Lois Porter told CBS News.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, pregnant women, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, the Food and Drug Administration says. The three people who died were all elderly.
Although some people might suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse promised to make sure all products are safe before they go back on sale.
“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” Kruse said in a statement on the company’s website.”We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers.”
Blue Bell said its new safety measures will include more extensive cleaning and sanitizing of equipment; increasing the swabbing and testing of facility surfaces by 800%; providing more employee training; and sending samples to a lab for testing every day.
This is the first recall for the company in the more than 100 years. The machine connected to the Listeria is being thrown out.
Products can be returned at the place of purchase for a refund.
The CDC estimates approximately 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis in the U.S. each year.