The month of October brings another ice cream concern involving Listeria monocytogenes. Nestle USA issued a voluntary recall mid-day on Friday, October 7, 2016, on its Drumstick Club 16-count variety and 24-count Vanilla packs due to a “possible health risk.” Both packs containing 4.6 ounce cones. This release comes only a week or so after Blue Bell Creameries’ recall of its Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookie Two Step ice cream flavors. In this case, however, Nestle USA is not pointing the finger at a third party supplier like Blue Bell Creameries did.

Information About the Recall

After a full review of the press release, it appears that the company conducted a series of tests on the product assembly lines of the products after their release to the public for national retail sale. During the routine testing, traces of Listeria monocytogenes was discovered and isolated at the company’s Bakersfield, California manufacturing facility. The company contends that the bacteria was found on equipment contact surfaces from the Bakersfield, California location, and that the products themselves did not test for the bacteria prior to retail release. The company mentions on its website that they utilize a “test and hold program” – a similar program implemented by Blue Bell Creameries after its Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in 2015. The production facility made the products between August 31, 2016 and September 17, 2016.

Some consumers may have concerns as to why Nestle USA took so long to find the contamination, if they have a safeguard program already in place. The company notes that the product release was inadvertent and the result of “… an error [which] occurred in logging receipt of the test result …” and that they are trying to reinforce the system to prevent any further issues of this kind. The company is firm that the recall is precautionary, and there do not appear to be any reports of confirmed illness as a result of this recall. The company is also quick to note that they complete a thorough clean after each day’s production. It does not appear that the company has closed down operations in the Bakersfield, California plant, nor does it appear that it anticipates any further product recalls in the future relating to the contamination findings there.

The company has not disclosed the amount of product that is pending in the recall, but contends that the recall only affects the two product types from that particular product line. The consumer can find the product identification codes for the recalled products on the back of the packages and on the individually marked vanilla cones. The recalled product packs have distinct UPC codes, “best before” dates, and production code. For a complete list of the codes involved in this recall, you can visit the Food and Drug Administration’s notification here.

This Sounds Like Blue Bell All Over Again

The fact that this particular recall is very similar to the recent Blue Bell Creameries recall is not lost on Nestle USA. In addition to the Food and Drug Administration notification and the company’s press release, Nestle USA created a “Frequently Asked Questions” landing page for its consumers to seek additional information concerning the recall. Nestle USA issued the following statement for the comparison of this recall to Blue Bell’s most recent recall:

“Each recall has its own unique facts. Except for the coincidence that our recall involved both ice cream and listeria, our situation is much different from Blue Bell’s in a number of significant ways, including: (1) we have received no reports of human illnesses; (2) we have no listeria findings in the ice cream itself (just the equipment); (3) we have only one product line affected; (4) we have only one facility affected; and (5) we self-identified this event and took precautionary steps to recall product.”

For more information from Nestle USA about the recall and to review their Frequently Asked Questions, you can visit its site here.

Why Do We See Listeria monocytogenes so Often Linked to Ice Cream?

Listeria monocytogenes is a special and different kind of bacteria than is typically found in food. Unlike other foodborne bacteria, like Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes thrives in cold environments. It is also found in almost every type of environment, so it is easy for a vector – such as a factory worker – to transport the bacteria from the outside into a facility. Due to this ability to live easily in the cold, it is relatively common for the bacteria to survive well in food processing facilities – especially those that manufacture ice cream or cold foods. There was a similar concern during the CRF Frozen Foods recall this year relating to frozen vegetables – which sickened 9 people over a four year time period.

Should I be Concerned About This Recall and How do I know if Those I Love Will Get Sick?

Thus far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and Nestle USA have not reported any cases of Listeriosis linked to this recall. However, it is a good idea to remain cautious of the signs and symptoms of Listeriosis, or Listeria monocytogenes poisoning, so that you can seek immediate medical attention if needed. It is important to note that the typical, healthy adult will not show any signs or symptoms of sickness. It could take anywhere from 3 to seventy days for symptoms to show in an ill person. Those who are very young, older, pregnant, and have weakened immune systems are primarily at risk for getting sick. Listeriosis is known to cause particular concerns to in utero fetuses and newborn babies.

Signs of Listeriosis include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Upset Stomach
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea or acute febrile gastroenteritis

If you suspect that you or someone you love may have symptoms of Listeriosis as noted above, it is recommended that you immediately seek medical attention, particularly if you are pregnant. Immediate medical attention can prevent the spread of the illness to the central nervous system or the bloodstream. For more information about Listeria monocytogenes or Listeriosis, please visit our post on the subject here.