Blue Bell recall: What is listeria?

Elderly, pregnant women, weak immune systems more susceptible to listeria

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The first recall in Blue Bell Creameries' 108-year history has expanded. The company pulled its entire line of products.

The drastic move comes after tests revealed samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream made on March 17 and March 27 contained listeria.

So what is listeria, and should you be worried?

"If you realize who is most at risk, that should tell you if you should have a concern," said Dr. Miguel Fernandez, who heads up the South Texas Poison Center at UT Health Science Center.

He said the bacterium, found in soil, water and some animals, and can be transferred to crops or unpasteurized dairy products, does not make most people sick.

"In fact, most of us have probably been exposed to it in our lives," he said. "It only becomes a problem in people whose immune systems are not fully developed or are compromised."

Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to listeria infection.

The symptoms of infection are flu-like, but unlike other types of food poisoning, can take much longer to show up.

"It might be four days," Fernandez said. "It might be four months."

How the bacteria got into the Blue Bell products remains uncertain. 

The company vowed to do the right thing and get to the bottom of the issue. It has changed some protocols, including testing every product and holding it from the marketplace until it is proven safe.

When products will return to stores has not been announced.

The company urges consumers who have Blue Bell products in their freezers to return them to the store where they bought them for a full refund.

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