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Blue Bell Creameries pulls all its products over listeria risk

Blue Bell Creameries has voluntarily recalled all of its products on the market after it found listeria, a potentially deadly bacterium, in two samples of its chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

The company will pull its products — including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks — from shelves in the 23 states and international locations where they are sold, since any of its products “have the potential to be contaminated,” Blue Bell said in a statement.

“We’re committed to doing the 100% right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said CEO Paul Kruse in a statement.

The wide-reaching recall follows on the heels of the family-owned company’s first recall in its 108-year history. Blue Bell issued a recall last month after the Centers for Disease Control linked its ice creams to the listeria-connected death of three people in Kansas. Five others, in Kansas and Texas, were also sickened by listeria bacteria.

Listeria is one of the most dangerous food-borne illnesses, especially for older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. It sickens about 1,600 Americans a year, causing fever and muscle aches and gastrointestinal problems. In 2012, 13% of patients sickened by listeria died, according to CDC statistics. That’s quite high when compared with a more common food-borne disease such as salmonella, which kills less than 1% of infected patients.

In order to catch any contaminated products before they reach the market, Blue Bell will implement a “test and hold” procedure in which products will be tested for bacterial contamination and won’t be shipped to grocery stores until after tests show they are safe. The company is also boosting its cleaning and sanitization system, increasing employee training and expanding swabbing and testing of its plant environment by 800% to cover more surfaces.