Listeria in ice cream: Tell consumers testing plans, make results public

Chapman and I made this other road trip, in 2002, where we stayed at a B&B in Gippsland, Australia, saw a bad Pink Floyd cover band in Melbourne, went to New Zealand for work (and to see his girlfriend) and then back to Sydney for ANZAC day.

ben.mc.2004We had no idea what ANZAC day was back then.

I have a better idea now.

The campaign at Gallipoli in World War 1, was the first major battle undertaken in the war by Australia and New Zealand, and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries.

On Saturday, 6-year-old Sorenne walked with classmates to the local memorial, and we talked about war, and what we were walking for.

But praying or keeping fingers crossed is not going to prevent war, any more that it’s going to prevent Listeria in ice cream.

And so Chapman and I were reunited – in print – half-a-world apart.

With another recall of ice cream announced Friday over fears of listeria contamination – the third in four months – consumers are wondering whether it’s safe to indulge in their favorite summer treat.

There have been three major ice cream recalls for listeria contamination in recent months, starting with Snoqualmie Ice Cream, a Washington state company that issued a voluntary recall in December for all its products produced from Jan. 1, 2014, until Dec. 21, 2014. At least two illnesses have been linked to Snoqualmie’s recalled products.

On Monday, Blue Bell Creameries recalled all of its products currently on the market, which include ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. At least 10 people have been sickened by Blue Bell products contaminated with listeria in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Three people died in Kansas.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on Friday announced a voluntary recall of all ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and ice cream sandwiches. Jeni’s isn’t aware of any reports of illness to date.

“We see listeria associated with lots of other foods out there, and now we’ve added ice cream to the list,” said Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety in Canada and the U.S. who publishes barfblog, a food safety blog.

Listeria can be killed with heat, but not cold.

“Listeria grows slowly at refrigeration temperatures and it persists in frozen foods,” said Benjamin Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

Food safety experts Powell and Chapman said it’s safe to eat ice cream.

Kate Connors, a spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said Friday that she didn’t know of any plans to add ice cream to the list of foods pregnant women should avoid eating.

Consumers should toss any products affected by the recalls, but listeria is so rare that it simply doesn’t make sense to get rid of all the frozen treats in your fridge, said Powell.

“I don’t think there’s a big cause for worry,” he said, “but I do think it’s incumbent on the companies to do the proper testing and to make it public if they want to not only maintain but ensure consumer trust.”

What I meant by that was, hey, ice cream folks, tell us lowly consumers what testing you do, make those results public, and market food safety at retail.