FDA Announces Ice Cream Recall by Lappert’s Ice Cream, Inc. Because of Potentially Fatal Listeria Contamination

The FDA has announced (http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/lappert08_05.html)  Lappert’s Ice Cream, Inc. of Richmond, California, is recalling all of its 8-ounce, pint, 1.5-gallon and 3-gallon packages of ice cream (all flavors) because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. So far, no illnesses have been reported.

The potential for contamination was noted after testing by the State of Washington Health Department revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a pint container of Banana Carmel Chocolate Chip packed by Lappert’s.
Testing at the firm’s manufacturing site in Richmond, CA by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes on some production equipment.

The recalled ice cream was distributed in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, and Illinois and possibly in other states by Lappert’s wholesale accounts. The 1.5- and 3-gallon containers were distributed to ice cream shops and the pint and 8-ounce containers to retail outlets.

All are packaged in cardboard containers and labeled Lappert’s Ice Cream (plant number 06-6919). All flavors produced on or before August 4, 2005 and all products with a code of 216 or lower, or no code, on the bottom of the tub are under recall.

Products produced after August 4th, 2005 with corresponding Julian date of 217 or higher coded on the bottom of the 1.5- and 3-gallon tubs, or date coded on the pint containers are not affected by this recall.
Consumers who have purchased Lappert’s ice cream are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 510-231-2340.


Listeria monocytogenes is a disease-causing bacterium that is food-borne and causes an illness called listeriosis. There are approximately 2,500 cases of Listeriosis in the United States annually leading to about 500 deaths. Major outbreaks of Listeria have occurred in numerous states between 1985 and 2002.
Unlike other bacteria, Listeria survives in temperatures from below freezing (20°F) to body temperature. It grows best in the temperature range that is used for refrigeration. This creates an added danger as Listeria may be transmitted in ready-to-eat foods that have actually been properly refrigerated.

Certain groups of individuals, such as pregnant women and their unborn fetuses, are at higher risk for listeriosis. Among infants, listeriosis occurs when the infection is transmitted from the mother through the placenta or during the actual birthing process. Some of the more serious outcomes of listeriosis in infants are spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, or sepsis in infancy.

Listeria bacteria enter the body through a normal and intact gastrointestinal tract. Once in the body, Listeria can travel through the blood stream and are often found inside cells. Listeria can manipulate the host cell genes, produce a toxin that damages cells, and move directly from cell-to-cell, thereby avoiding the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Listeria is found in soil and vegetation and easily contracted and transmitted by herd animals. It can live in the intestines of humans, animals, and birds for long periods of time without causing infection. It can be passed to humans from eating infected cattle and fowl, as well as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

After eating contaminated food, the incubation period ranges from 1 to 8 weeks, averaging about 31 days. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.
If the nervous system is affected, which is a possibility with listeriosis, other symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion, or convulsions. In these cases, listeriosis may mimic a stroke.

Although Listeria is generally treatable, it remains a serious public health threat, especially to pregnant women, people with AIDS, or those who are immuno-compromised.
Moreover, doctors often fail to consider a diagnosis of Listeria food poisoning because they are not aware that Listeria can survive and grow in refrigerated foods. In fact, a recent nationwide outbreak of Listeria poisoning was eventually determined to have been caused by contaminated hot dogs and lunch meat; foods that had not previously been considered dangerous.

Although major outbreaks of Listeria have been infrequent, the illness is one of the more serious foodborne illnesses and can be fatal. In 2002, a Listeria outbreak in Vancouver, British Columbia, caused two pregnant women to lose their babies. The outbreak was a result of bad cheese served at a hotel. Listeria should always be taken very seriously by the public and healthcare professionals.

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