Blue Bell Ice Cream Linked to Listeria at Via Christi Hospital in Wichita

Five patients of Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, contracted Listeriosis in an outbreak linked to Listeria-contaminated Blue Bell Creameries ice cream, specifically a product called Scoops. Tragically, 3 of those patients died, giving rise to wrongful death claims. The other 2 were critically ill but survived. Survivors of  meningitis, a common and serious complication, can have permanent brain damage.

Our Listeria lawyers are investigating this outbreak and the liability of Blue Bell Creameries. They represented the one person in Wichita who contracted Listeriosis from cantaloupe in a 2011 outbreak. She was treated at the same hospital, Via Christi, that is connected to this outbreak.

Like so many victims, she was in her late 60s when she contracted Listeriosis.  She went on to develop full blown meningitis. The cases were settled on a confidential basis and are subject to confidentiality agreements.

The outbreak has been ongoing for about a year, with illness onset dates from January 2014 to January 2015, as shown in the graph below.

Epi of Blue Bell Outbreak

Health officials will not release the names or hometowns of the outbreak victims. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics, Kansas has recorded 6 cases of listeriosis since January 2014. Those 6 were from the following counties: Sedgwick County (2), Harvey (1), Wyandotte (1), Shawnee (1) and Ford (1).

Outbreak Investigation

The 5 people in Kansas were infected with one of 4 strains of L. monocytogenes.  All 5 were patients at the same hospital, Via Christi in Wichita, when they acquired this illness, indicating that these were hospital-acquired infections, according to the CDC. Health officials gathered information about 4 of the 5 patients, and all 4 had consumed milkshakes made with a single-serving Blue Bell brand ice cream item called “Scoops” while they were in the hospital.

Three strains of Listeria highly similar to 3 of the outbreak strains were found in products made at the Blue Bell Creameries plant in Brenham, Texas. These strains were found in samples of Blue Bell Creameries single serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and the Great Divide Bar ice cream items collected by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control during routine sampling on February 12, 2015.

After this finding, the Texas Department of State Health Services collected samples from the Blue Bell Creameries Brenham facility. Listeria was found in the same products tested by South Carolina and in Scoops, which is made on the same production line as the other 2 products.

Genetic testing called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was done on the bacterial isolates found in those ice cream products, and the DNA patterns were indistinguishable from those of Listeria isolates known to have sickened 4 of the 5 patients.

Blue Bell Recall

Prompted by this outbreak, Blue Bell Creameries issued a recall of some of its ice cream products, including the following:

  • Chocolate Chip Country Cookie – SKU #196
  • Great Divide Bar – SKU #108
  • Sour Pop Green Apple Bar – SKU #221
  • Cotton Candy Bar – SKU #216
  • Scoops – SKU #117
  • Vanilla Stick Slices – SKU #964
  • Almond Bars – SKU #156
  • 6 Pack Cotton Candy Bars – SKU #245
  • 6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars – SKU #249
  • 12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars – SKU #

The regular Mooo Bars, available at grocery stores, are not subject to recall.

Many have been removed from the market, but consumers, institutions and retailers may still have some in their freezers. CDC is recommending that consumers not eat the recalled items.

Institutions and Retailers Need to Take Action

These recalled products could cause serious injury and wrongful death. Because if this, hospitals, schools, prisons, jails, cafeterias, grocery stores and other retailers should not sell or serve anything on the recall list.  The FDA recommends they take the following steps:

  1. Wash and sanitize.
    Every surface that may have had contact with the recalled ice cream should be washed and sanitized, including display cases, refrigerators, cutting boards, counter surfaces, storage containers, dishes, and all utensils used to cut or serve the items.
  2. Wash hands.
    During and following this cleaning and sanitation process, workers should wash their hands well with with warm water and soap.

If the recalled Blue Bell ice cream products were processed or packaged, there could have been cross contamination via cutting surfaces, utensils, etc. If there is any likelihood that something could have been contaminated, clean it.

About Our Law Firm

We are a national food safety law firm that represents families of people who died from Listeriosis. We have won millions for our clients in wrongful death lawsuits against food companies and others. You can click here now if you want a FREE consultation. For more information, read about our Bad Bug Law Team.

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Category: Food Poisoning
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