Less than a year after returning to store shelves after a listeria outbreak, Blue Bell Creameries said Wednesday that it is recalling cookie dough ice cream in several states because of new concerns involving the bacteria.
The Brenham-based ice cream company said it is voluntarily recalling half-gallons of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookie Two Step that contained contaminated cookie dough provided by a third party vendor, Aspen Hills. It is also recalling pints of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
The recalled ice cream was not distributed in Texas, the company said. Rather, the products were shipped to stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
No illnesses have been reported, Blue Bell said.
“Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test-and-hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement.
Blue Bell said it identified a potential problem with Aspen Hill’s cookie dough when it was tested at its facilities. It then notified Aspen Hills, which issued a recall of the cookie dough.
Consumers can return the recalled products where they purchased them for a full refund, the company said.
This marks the second time in two years that Blue Bell has recalled ice cream because of listeria issues. Last year, the company had to shut down all three of its ice cream factories, laying off 1,450 employees and placing another 1,400 on furlough, after its products were linked to three deaths and several cases of listeriosis in four states.
The shutdown almost forced the iconic Texas company out of business. But in July 2015, Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass agreed to invest $125 million in Blue Bell to help the company restart production with new equipment.
Blue Bell ice cream slowly returned to store shelves last fall and the company introduced a new flavor this summer, the Cookie Two Step, which is now involved in the recall.
In January, Blue Bell said it had found “suspected listeria species” at its Brenham facility but stressed that none of its products had tested positive for the bacteria.
Listeria is a particularly difficult bacteria to get rid of because it can survive in many different conditions, said Rance Berg, an associate professor at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth.
“It can survive low temperatures … certainly freezing is not a problem at all,” Berg said. “It can survive in minus zero conditions.”
People who have compromised immune systems, such as children, the elderly and pregnant women, are more likely to have severe symptoms of nausea, fever and diarrhea if they ingest listeria, Berg said.