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The Recent String of Listeria Contaminations Is Unnerving

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If you have any Blue Bell cookie dough ice cream in your freezer, put down the spoon. The ice cream company just issued a recall for possible Listeria contamination—the ice cream company’s second Listeria scare in as many years.

Last year, Blue Bell had a huge recall of its ice cream (across flavors) for a widespread Listeria outbreak that claimed three lives. This time, though, the problem wasn’t actually in the ice cream itself. Instead, the company points at chunks of frozen cookie dough (made by cookie dough company, Aspen Hills and then sold to Blue Bell) that became contaminated before they were added to the ice cream.

The cookie dough ice cream joins a long line of frozen foods recalled for Listeria lately, including last year’s other Blue Bell ice cream recall, a massive frozen veggie outbreak from this year, and a recall of Eggo frozen waffles from a few days back. The frozen food trend doesn’t, however, hint at some link between the different recalls, instead it just points to an unusual fact about the bacteria. Unlike most food pathogens, Listeria can grow and spread in cold temperatures easily.


There’s also another growing trend, though, besides your grocer’s freezer section, you can spot in this recall—and this one is actually good news. Just like Eggo waffles, which recalled 100,000 whole wheat waffles (seriously, if you still have some, don’t eat them) a few days back, this recall was issued before anyone got sick instead of after being traced back.

Listeria can be incredibly difficult to track down. Not only does it thrive in cold temperatures, it can also linger on almost any surface it touches—countertops, conveyer belts, inside of transport trucks—which then touches food, recontaminating it. And, although symptoms can pop up within a couple days of being exposed, it can also take as long as two months between eating something contaminated with Listeria and finally starting to get sick. This all means that, by the time people are getting sick, it can take a massive effort to track and stop the source of Listeria.


Lately, though, we’re getting much better at testing not just food but also factories to stop outbreaks before they start. We still need to get even better and faster at stopping outbreaks. But—as alarming as it is to see recalls of the foods that have made it into our homes—seeing them show up with no reported illnesses on their tally is a sign that better testing measures are actually working.

You can check out a full list of products for the latest ice cream recall right here.