Listeria fear spreads as Blue Bell closes Oklahoma ice cream plant

By Jim Forsyth SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. health officials have warned consumers against eating any products from a Blue Bell Creameries' Oklahoma ice cream plant, which has temporarily closed because of possible Listeriosis contamination. On Saturday the Texas grocery chain H-E-B, which is one of the largest retailers of Blue Bell ice cream, announced it was pulling all of the company's products from its shelves indefinitely in the wake of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning. Earlier this month, Kansas health officials said three people died between January 2014 and January 2015 after being sickened by Listeriosis at a hospital where Blue Bell products were served. They were in the hospital for other reasons. Blue Bell is voluntarily suspending operations at its plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the company said in a statement. "We will thoroughly inspect the facility for any possible problems that may have led to the contamination of some of our ice cream products over the past few weeks,” the company said. Blue Bell said its other facilities will continue to operate and supply products to retail stores and institutional customers. But H-E-B, which has 340 stores, said it will remove all Blue Bell products as a precaution due to food safety concerns, according to company spokeswoman Dya Campos in San Antonio. Blue ​Bell said its two voluntary recalls in the past three weeks are the first in the company's more than 100-year history. According to the CDC, Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria. It primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with compromised immune systems and can lead to death. (Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Kevin Murphy and Lisa Shumaker)