By: Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - Blue Bell Ice Cream's first recall in 108 years has been linked to at least three deaths nationwide.
An ice cream sample produced at their Broken Arrow, Oklahoma manufacturing plant tested positive last month for Listeria monocytogenes, according to Food and Drug Administration officials.
The recalled product - single-serving cups of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream - is not sold individually at retail locations. Institutional customers, including hospitals in 23 states, reportedly order the ice cream cups in bulk.
Walmart, H-E-B, Kroger's, Sam's Club and other major retailers have taken precautions by removing Blue Bell products - even items not believed to be contaminated - from shelves.
Blue Bell has since shut down production at their Oklahoma plant and voluntarily pulled a range of food items manufactured there.
"We're going to make this right and we're going to regain the trust of families we've served for more than a century," company spokesperson Gene Grabowski told NewsWest 9. "If you go to our website, you'll find a list with all the [recalled] product codes."
He said products made at the Oklahoma facility can be identified by a date code printed on the bottom of the carton; they all end with the letters "O," "P," Q," "R," "S," or "T."
"Consumers should check their freezers for any of these products and throw them away, even if some of the product has been eaten and no one has become ill," CDC officials said. "Institutions and retailers should also carefully check their freezers or inventory for any of these products. These products can have a shelf life of up to 2 years."
Blue Bell's three other manufacturing plants - two in Texas and one in Alabama - are still functioning normally.
According to Grabowski, the distribution center located in Big Spring is "completely safe" and local consumers "have absolutely nothing to worry about."
However, Big Spring residents reported being "very skeptical" and "switching to other brands."
"I don't think I'd want to buy it after what I heard," Michael Rector told NewsWest 9. "I don't want to end up in the hospital."
Dr. Cedric Spak, an infectious disease specialist based in Dallas, said listeriosis generally only attacks people with weakened immune systems.