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US warns illness linked to select Blue Bell confections

TOPEKA, Kansas (KSN)The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been working to investigate an outbreak of listeriosis cases in five adult Kansas residents linked to ice cream consumed from Blue Bell Creameries.

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

Five people in Kansas have become ill as part of this outbreak and three deaths have been reported.

According to KDHE Data from 2014 and 2015, two cases of listeria have been reported from Sedgwick County, and one each are from Ford, Harvey, Shawnee, and Wyandotte.

Paul Kruse, the CEO of Blue Bell Ice Cream, said the product was shipped to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita. He said once they found out what happened, it was removed from store shelves and the production line was shut down.

“We’re disappointed, it’s never happened to us before,” he said.

He added that the products were removed from shelves three weeks ago and the company continues to investigate.

Those affected became ill between January 2014 and January 2015 after a majority were known to have consumed Blue Bell Creameries ice cream at the hospital.

The hospital was not aware of the listeriosis contamination, and KSN has contacted representatives of Via Christi Hospital.

The outbreak was recently discovered after two patients were identified with the same strain of listeriosis. Patients became ill with listeriosis after hospitalizations for unrelated causes at the same hospital.

Further investigation identified three other patients with listeriosis who had been hospitalized for unrelated causes before the onset of listeriosis.RELATED LINK | FDC’s Listeria FAQ page

The FDA warned consumers about the potential contamination in Blue Bell Creameries’ products. Kansas health officials are warning consumers who have purchased the following Blue Bell Creameries novelty items and have not consumed the items to discard them:

  • Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
  • Great Divide Bar
  • Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
  • Cotton Candy Bar
  • Scoops
  • Vanilla Stick Slices
  • Almond Bar
  • No Sugar Added Mooo Bar (regular Mooo Bars are not included)

Potentially contaminated items have been pulled from retail locations by Blue Bell Creameries and are no longer available for purchase. At this time, no other products from Blue Bell Creameries have been linked to this outbreak.

The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.

Symptoms begin from three to 70 days after consuming the bacteria. In 2014, five cases of listeriosis were reported in Kansas.

Anyone who believes they may have become ill with listeriosis should contact their health care provider. A hotline number has also been set up for those who want more information. You can call 979-836-7977, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time.