It’s a hot summer afternoon and the kids could sure use a cool treat. You know what will do the trick, too. You head for the kitchen, get out the scooper, a few sugar cones and the creamy goodness that is ice cream. Then, frosty container in hand, you’re the one who suddenly freezes after remembering what you’ve recently heard. Is it possible that America’s favorite frozen dessert could lead to contracting a fatal disease?

No doubt your alarm comes from news reports about the potentially deadly bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Approximately 25 percent of people who contract Listeriosis (the illness caused by the bacteria) die from it, and a variety of foods vulnerable to contamination have been recalled this year, including frozen spinach, hummus and, yes, even ice cream.

One of the primary ice cream manufacturers impacted by the recall was the Blue Bell brand, linked to eight cases of Listeriosis in Kansas and Texas last spring; three of those afflicted have died. Although the brand pulled more than two dozen of its product lines from stores and temporarily closed a facility in Oklahoma, consumers’ fears about what might be lurking in innocent-looking, everyday foods were heightened. After all, Listeria is only one of many concerns: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 48 million Americans get sick and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year.


A Close Look at Listeria

Lesser known than pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli, Listeria is an organism common in wet environments such as soil and water, so it’s easy for it to come in contact with produce. Animals also carry the bacteria, and it has been found in unpasteurized dairy products as well as processed meats.

Read more in the July 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.