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Deadly listeria outbreak linked to ice cream

BRENHAM, Texas -- Five cases of listeriosis, including three deaths, have been linked to ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries, CBS Houston reports.

All five patients ate the ice cream while being treated at a single hospital in Kansas between January 2014 and January 2015, where they had been hospitalized for unrelated reasons. Three of them died. The FDA says hospital records show at least four of the patients were served prepackaged, single-serve ice cream products from Blue Bell Creameries.

However, no one suspected the infection came from ice cream until four strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found in Blue Bell products last month by the South Carolina Health Department.

The Texas Department of Health was notified and investigators collected product samples from the company's manufacturing facility in Brenham, Texas, that turned up Listeria monocytogenes. The FDA also notified health departments in other states.

Blue Bell Creameries reports that it has removed the affected ice cream products from the market and has shut down the production line where the products were made. These are the products affected:

- Chocolate Chip Country Cookie SKU #196

- Great Divide Bar SKU #108

- Sour Pop Green Apple Bar SKU #221

- Cotton Candy Bar SKU # 216

- Scoops SKU #117

- Vanilla Stick Slices SKU #964

- Almond Bars SKU #156

- 6-pack Cotton Candy Bars SKU #245

- 6-pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars SKU #249

- 12-pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars SKU #343 (regular Mooo Bars are not affected)

The FDA says consumers should not eat any of the products listed above. If these ice cream products are in your freezer, they should be thrown away, even if some of them have been eaten without anyone becoming ill.

Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness that causes fever, muscle aches and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms. Symptoms can appear any time from a few days to a few weeks after eating contaminated food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

The CDC estimates there are about 1,600 cases of listeriosis and 260 deaths due to the illness in the U.S. each year.

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m Eastern time.

Blue Bell Creameries says this is the first recall in the company's 108-year history. It also provided a phone number for consumers who want more information: 979-836-7977, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time.

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