What is Listeria? Blue Bell recalling all products after 3 die, 5 fall ill from bacteria

Posted at 8:58 AM, Apr 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-21 09:01:53-04

Three people have died and five others fallen ill because of Listeria monocytogenes, a dangerous organism that may have come from Blue Bell Creameries products.

The listeriosis outbreak has caused the company to recall all of its products, including ice cream, frozen yogurt and other treats.

What it is
Listeria is a bacteria found in raw milk, and foods made from raw milk. It is a potentially deadly germ that grows in colder temperatures.

It is killed by being cooked or pasteurized.

Listeria can "cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems," according to the Blue Bell Creameries recall release issued April 20. "Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women."

FDA investigating Blue Bell Listeria case

It is difficult to trace the origin of the germ. According to Blue Bell, the recall decision is the result of findings from a sampling program it initiated. The company had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants.

Blue Bell officials said five patients were treated in Kansas, and three in Texas, after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The listeriosis was traced to one line in its factory that produced Blue Bell's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons on March 17 and March 27.