Blue Bell

After Blue Bell ice cream’s recent recall because of listeria contaminations, the University Divi- sion of Housing and Food Services is looking to replenish the campus ice cream supply. DHFS is contacting interested vendors about expanding their ice cream brands across campus.
Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

The bacteria listeria caused one of the worst events on campus in 2015 — the removal of Blue Bell ice cream from UT shelves. However, not everyone is avoiding the bacteria. Researchers at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio are using listeria to make breakthroughs in colon cancer research.

Listeria monocytogenes is the species of bacteria found in the contaminated Blue Bell ice cream. Listeria monocytogenes triggers the foodborne illness listeriosis, which can lead to diarrhea and other stomach problems, and then fever and muscle aches. The most dangerous symptom of listeriosis is sepsis, an infection throughout the entire body, and meningitis, the swelling of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About a third of the babies who had mothers with listeriosis die. 

 But the presence of listeria in the intestines is not a death sentence. The symptoms of listeriosis only show if the immune system fails to stop the bacteria from reaching the blood and nervous system. About 70 percent of adults have listeria as part of their microbiome — the natural community of tiny organisms that live on and in the body. In the gut microbiome, there are trillions of bacteria with more than 3 million different genes.

Listeria flourishes in the gut, making it useful to researchers dealing with problems relating to the intestines. Tyrel Curiel and Peter Dube, researchers at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, received a grant to research how listeria could fight diseases such as colitis and colon cancer.

Curiel’s research focuses on B7 homologue 1 (B7-H1), a molecule that modulates, or influences, the microbiome. Curiel and his team were researching the effect of B7-H1 on mice tumors when they realized mice lacking B7-H1 were more likely to develop colon cancer. 

Dobe said when B7-H1 is not expressed in the human gut, patients suffer from an imbalance of the microorganisms that live there. This microbiome imbalance is
called dysbiosis.

“Gut bacteria affects your health generally,” Curiel said. “Good gut health could make you potentially age more slowly as well as help you fight Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Curiel and Dobe have joined forces to create listeria, which carries genes that express molecules that interact with B7-H1 in order to maximize its effectiveness.

“The idea is to see whether we can improve gut health by modulating B7-H1 levels,” Dobe said. 

Scientists have devoted many resources to studying the human microbiome in recent years. In the Human Microbiome Project, a five-year initiative the U.S. National Institutes of Health launched in 2008, scientists tested how changes in the human microbiome relate to human health. 

Dobe said the modified listeria would not lead to listeriosis. Ironically, Curiel and Dobe plan to put the modified listeria in ice cream for easy and delicious patient consumption.

“These strains of listeria have proved safe in a variety of trials, so they would be safe to use on people,” Dobe said. 

Blue Bell removed its ice cream from shelves because listeriosis is a miserable and, at worst, deadly disease. With this research, there is hope that the same bacteria will someday help, rather than harm, the human body.

As part of their executive alliance campaign platform, President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu promised a Chili’s on campus. While there are no plans for a restaurant, the sit-down food chain is offering a coupon to UT students in honor of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu victory.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

On this week's episode of the Daily Texan NewsCast we discuss the universities plans to expand into East Campus, a bill in the Texas Legislature to limit tuition increases, the Longhorn Band coach leaving, the Blue Bell recall, Mellow Mushroom closing, and Chile's coupons in honor of Rotnofsky and Mandalapu.

After Blue Bell ice cream’s recent recall because of listeria contaminations, the University Divi- sion of Housing and Food Services is looking to replenish the campus ice cream supply. DHFS is contacting interested vendors about expanding their ice cream brands across campus.
Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

After the recall of all Blue Bell Creameries ice cream on April 20, students are finding empty freezers where the Dutch Chocolate and Homemade Vanilla cartons used to be.

Following the announcement of the voluntary recall of Blue Bell products, the Division of Housing and Food Services (DHFS) removed all Blue Bell from campus stores in case of possible contamination of listeria, and DFHS is now considering different brands to fill the ice cream void. 

“One of the ice cream companies that comes straight to mind is Blue Bunny,” said Rene Rodriguez, DHFS food service director. “Ben & Jerry’s would also like to expand their brands [on campus].”

Civil engineering freshman Matthew Yu said he would embrace the expansion of Ben & Jerry’s on campus.

“The Ben & Jerry’s products in [Jester City Limits] are already delicious,” Yu said. “I can only imagine how much better JCL will become when there are new Ben & Jerry’s flavors.”

Rodriguez said there is no timetable for the new ice cream supply because food services has to consider many variables, including cost and student feedback.

“Anytime we bring in new products, we like to get student feedback in samplings and telling [students] this is what we are going to have to charge,” Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, DHFS may not bring back Blue Bell products, even if the company ends its current recall of products. Rodriguez said DHFS did not appreciate Blue Bell’s initial response after DHFS recalled all Blue Bell products even though Blue Bell first recalled only select products.  

“[Blue Bell] was only going to credit us [financially] for the items that were affected in the recall,” Rodriguez said. “And we pulled everything because we did not want to take a chance.”

Rodriguez said DHFS understands Blue Bell was making a strategic business decision to not fully reimburse food services for the initial recall. Once the recall expanded to all Blue Bell products, Blue Bell reimbursed food services for all of the items.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, headaches, confusion, loss of balance and possible intestinal problems.

Biochemistry freshman Evan Gabriel said he anticipates the incoming freshman class to feel the effect of the possible permanent removal of Blue Bell products from on-campus markets.

“I think a lot of incoming freshman would be disappointed to not see Blue Bell as one of their late-night snacking options,” Gabriel said.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hinojosa | Daily Texan Staff

Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sabra have issued recalls for many of their products because of a possible contamination with Listeria Monocytogens, a food bacterium. The Division of Housing and Food Service said it removed all possibly contaminated food items from campus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium commonly known as listeria. Common symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, headaches, stiff necks, confusion, loss of balance and possible
intestinal problems.

University Health Services medical director David Vander Straten said students should not become worried if they recently ate any Blue Bell or Sabra products.

“Students might have listeria, but if [they] don’t have any symptoms, there’s no need to worry about it,” Straten said.

All Blue Bell products have been recalled from the main markets on campus, including Jester City Market and Cypress Café, according to DHFS food service director Rene Rodriguez.

The CDC encourages individuals to check the code date on the bottom of Blue Bell ice creams in order to find out where the ice cream was produced. If the code date ends in an S, T, O, P, Q or R, the CDC recommends placing the ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and throwing it away.

Sabra hummus products remain in markets on campus because the recall did not include any of the products in the University’s inventory.

“At no point were any of the affected hummus products stocked in Housing and Food Service outlets on campus,” Rodriguez said. “The lot numbers and package sizes affected were not a match to our purchased products.”

Undeclared freshman Quoc Le said he continued to eat Sabra products, even though he read on his Twitter feed that the products had been recalled.

“I just assumed that the Sabra packages at Jester Market [were] not part of the ones that had been recalled,” Le said.

There have been eight confirmed cases of listeriosis linked to the contamination of Blue Bell products, with five of the cases reported from Kansas and three cases from Texas. Three individuals from Kansas have died from listeriosis.

The most recent major listeria outbreak involved prepackaged caramel apples made with Bidart Bros. Apples in December 2014. The outbreak resulted in 35 reported cases across the nation and seven deaths. 

According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak seems to be over, although people who continue to eat the recalled products may be at risk of contamination.