Blue Bell Ice Cream has decided to suspend operations at its factory in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where officials traced the production of ice cream contaminated by listeria, a deadly foodborne pathogen.
According to The Associated Press, “the now-recalled ice cream product — cups of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla — is not sold in retail locations and is shipped in bulk to ‘institutional accounts’ such as hospitals in 23 states that comprise less than 5 percent of the company's sales.”
In March, Blue Bell announced the recall of 10 products that tested positive for listeria, traced back to a machine at the company’s Brenham, Texas, facility, which was subsequently shut down.
That outbreak was responsible for the deaths of three people, who contracted listeria during hospitalization. Officials are currently investigating whether the patients contracted the illness from listeria-contaminated ice cream products distributed directly by the hospital.
"We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide our consumers with safe products and to preserve the trust we have built with them and their families for more than a century," the company said in a statement.
"Once our investigation is complete and we have made all necessary improvements, it will return to operation," according to the company's statement. "Our other plants continue to operate and supply our products to retail stores and institutional customers."