Blue Bell Creameries said Monday that it would pull all of its frozen dessert products off the market over suspected contamination with a bacteria that could cause stomach illness.
So far ice cream made by the company had been linked to 10 illnesses, including three deaths in Kansas, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
According to the Texas-based company's statement, new tests had revealed that half-gallons of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream produced on two dates in March contained Listeria monocytogenes.
"This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for listeria in different places and plants," the company said. "At this point, we cannot say with certainty how listeria was introduced to our facilities, and so we have taken this unprecedented step."
According to The New York Times the company's frozen desserts are distributed to about half of the US.
Confirmed infections had been reported from four states, Arizona (1 case), Kansas (5 cases), Oklahoma (1 case), and Texas (3 cases), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday.
Experts had noted that listeria typically did not cause severe illness in healthy people, but the very young and old, along with anyone who had a weakened immune system, could become severely ill from listeria infection.
With the latest recalls, the company's recalled products include all of its ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and other frozen treats sold in 23 states, the company said Monday.
The first infection was reported in January 2010, according to the CDC which connected patients from 2010-2015 to the current outbreak through comparisons to a database of bacteria DNA.
The origin of the strain was not known however, "the fact that it was the same strain over the last five years suggests it could have lurked somewhere in the factory the whole time," according to Dr Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, CNN reported.
According to Tauxe there might be more people sickened by listeria than the CDC knew about. He added, the rough estimate was, one more case existed for every case the CDC heard about.