Three patients at a Kansas hospital have died after eating Blue Bell ice cream tainted with listeria, but food-borne illness was not the sole cause of their deaths, health officials said Saturday.
"These people had been in and out of the hospital for other reasons," Sara Belfry, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told the Los Angeles Times. "This was a contributing cause, not the only cause."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said five people in all were infected, all of whom were being treated in the same hospital for unrelated problems. Four of the victims drank milkshakes made with a single serving of Blue Bell's Scoops ice cream at the hospital, a finding "that strongly suggests their infections were acquired in the hospital," the CDC said.
The outbreak was linked to products made on a single production line at the Blue Bell Creameries plant in Brenham, Texas, officials said. The outbreak has prompted the first product recall in the company's history. The latest illness occurred two months ago, according to the FDA.
Listeria bacteria were found in Blue Bell's single-serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwiches, No Sugar Added Mooo Bars, Sour Pop Green Apple Bars, Great Divide Bars, Vanilla Stick Slices and Almond Bars, the company said in a statement.
"This withdrawal in no way includes our half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three-gallon ice cream or the majority of take-home frozen snack novelties," the company said.
Listeriosis is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes, the CDC said. A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics.