Blue Bell Listeria outbreak sparks safety questions

Blue Bell Listeria outbreak sparks safety questions (Image 1)

As an unprecedented nationwide recall clears out a popular ice cream from store shelves, a food safety specialist at N.C. State University is asking questions.

Texas-based Blue Bell is pulling all its products from store shelves over ice cream that is possibly contaminated with Listeria. A batch of half gallon chocolate chip cookie dough flavors tested positive for Listeria in March, but the CDC says some recent cases date back to 2010.  The outbreak has sickened seven people in four states and killed three people in Kansas.

Eating food that is tainted with Listeria can cause nausea, diarrhea and even death in severe cases. The elderly, infants, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are most at risk.

The cause is under investigation, but N.C. State Food Safety Specialist Ben Chapman has questions he’d like answered.

“Where the contamination is specifically and when they knew about it?” Chapman said. “And what they did…if they were finding these environmental samples with Listeria, what they did to find that root cause?”

Chapman said it is up to consumers to ask their own questions and research brands before they go grocery shopping because there’s no guarantee that products purchased at the supermarket are always going to be safe to eat.

“We have to trust that the individuals that we’re buying it from, that were making it are doing everything they can for food safety,” Chapman said, “And that’s as much protection as we have.”

There are no reported cases in North Carolina, but the CDC recommends anyone with Blue Bell branded products in their freezer to throw them away.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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