Blue Bell Creameries has voluntarily recalled all of its products from shelves after its ice cream tested positive for Listeria – a fatal bacteria infection which has already killed three people in Kansas.
The decision to remove all products was taken after further batches of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream made on 17 March and 27 March 2015 were found to contain the bacteria.
In an emotional statement, the company's CEO and president Paul Kruse said the firm was committed to doing "100% the right thing" – explaining its "unprecedented step", adding that he could not say how Listeria entered their plants.
"The best way to do that is to take all our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe," he said. "We are heartbroken about this situation and apologise to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem.
"We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right."
Listeria monocytogenes causes serious and fatal infections in young children and elderly people or those with weak immune systems. Short-term symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea and diarrhoea. The infection can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
The first recall happened on 13 March after the deaths of three people were linked to contaminated Blue Bell snacks at a hospital in Kansas. Since then the company has had to deal with stores removing products from shelves almost every other week, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Products have been recalled from stores and supermarkets across America. They include in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and other international areas.
Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 01-866-608-3940 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm CST or go to bluebell.com.