On February 12, 2015 the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, during routine product sampling at a South Carolina distribution center, found three strains of Listeria monocytogenes that would later be shown to be related to illnesses reported in Kansas and four other rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes in samples of Blue Bell Creameries single serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and Great Divide Bar ice cream products. These products were manufactured at Blue Bell’s Brenham facility.
The Texas Department of State Health Services subsequently collected product samples from the Blue Bell’s Brenham facility. These samples yielded Listeria monocytogenes from the same products tested by South Carolina and a third, single-serving ice cream product, Scoops, which is also made on the same production line.
On March 13 the CDC announced a link between five Kansas cases of Listeriosis (including three deaths).
On March 13 Blue Bell announced a limited product recall by removing from the market the Scoops ice cream product and other products made on the same Brenham production line.
On March 22 the Kansas Department of Health & Environment reported one positive test for Listeria monocytogenes on a chocolate institutional/food service cup recovered from a hospital in Wichita, Kansas. The cup was produced in the Broken Arrow Oklahoma plant on April 15, 2014. CDC searched the PulseNet database and identified six patients with Listeriosis between 2010 and 2014 who had Listeria monocytogenes isolates with PFGE patterns indistinguishable from those of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from Blue Bell brand 3 oz. institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups.
On March 23 Blue Bell issued a second recall, recalling three flavors of 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups—chocolate (SKU #453), strawberry (SKU #452) and vanilla (SKU #451).
On April 3 Blue Bell suspended operations at its Broken Arrow plant.
On April 7 the CDC expanded the outbreak case count to include the five Kansas cases of Listeriosis (including three deaths), three cases in Texas, one in Arizona and one in Oklahoma. Illness onset dates range from January 2010 to January 2015.
On April 7 FDA notified Blue Bell that Listeria monocytogenes was present in samples of Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints. FDA collected the samples as part of a joint inspection with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry of the Broken Arrow plant, which began on March 23, 2015.
On April 7 Blue Bell expanded the recall of ice cream manufactured in its Broken Arrow plant to include additional products that have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Blue Bell reported that the recalled products were manufactured on the same production line that produced the ice cream that showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes and that the products were manufactured between February 12, 2015, and March 27, 2015.
On April 20 Blue Bell recalled all of its products on the market made at all of its facilities.
On May 7 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the findings from recent inspections at the Blue Bell production facilities in Brenham, Texas[PDF 4 pages], Broken Arrow, Oklahoma[PDF – 11 pages], and Sylacauga, Alabama[PDF – 5 pages], including the Broken Arrow plant where 17 separate positive tests for Listeria were found on equipment and in other locations from March 2013 through February 2015.
On May 14 Blue Bell signed agreements with health officials in Oklahoma and Texas requiring that the company would inform the states whenever there is a positive test result for Listeria monocytogenes in its products or ingredients.
On May 20 the FDA released inspectional observations of FDA inspections at Blue Bell Creameries facilities in Brenham, Texas in 2009 (PDF – 170KB), Broken Arrow, Okla., in 2012 (PDF – 328KB), Houston, Texas in 2007 (PDF – 196KB), and San Antonio, Texas in 2014 (PDF – 159).