Blue Bell says listeria found in production plant


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SALT LAKE CITY (CNN) — Blue Bell Ice Cream, which recalled its entire product line last spring because listeria was found on an ice cream container, says the bacteria has been found in one of its production plants, according to a company statement.

But the company said no listeria has been found in any Blue Bell products, which the company has been reintroducing into the market.

"Since our plants reopened, we have tested and will continue to test every batch of ice cream produced, and no products produced have tested positive for listeria," the company said.

Blue Bell is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for its handling of the ice cream contamination linked to 10 reported cases of listeriosis, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN. Three of those believed to be sickened by Blue Bell frozen treats died.

Prosecutors are examining whether company executives committed wrongdoing in their handling of the outbreak.

Blue Bell did not respond to CNN's request for comment on that investigation.

Blue Bell decided to yank all its products last April after tests showed some half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream contained listeria.

Listeriosis is a potentially fatal infection caused by listeria bacteria, which is found in soil, water and some animals such as poultry and cattle, including raw milk. It's especially dangerous because, unlike many other bacteria, it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator or a food processing plant.

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The CDC says older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.

Blue Bell recently announced plans to continue its market re-entry by filling stores with Blue Bell ice cream products in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, among others, beginning January 18. The company has been reintroducing products since August 2015 in Oklahoma and Texas.

In its statement, the company said improved environmental and product testing procedures are working and that it will cooperate with regulatory agencies.

Approximately 1,600 cases of listeriosis are reported in the United States every year, with 260 resulting in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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