In April 2015, Blue Bell ice cream was linked to a deadly Listeria outbreak that prompted a recall of all of its products and the temporary closure of its production facilities. The plant in Sylacauga, Alabama was the first to come online, restarting production in August. The plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was next, restarting in September. This week, the company’s plant in Brenham, Texas began making ice cream for the first time in seven months.
During that time, the company has made changes to the facility and to its process, according to a statement on its website. “Operations are currently on a limited basis as the company seeks to confirm that new procedures, facility enhancements and employee training are effective. Ice cream produced will be closely monitored and tested. There is no firm date for when ice cream from the Brenham facility will be available for sale.”
Many of the illnesses were linked to contaminated single-serve ice cream products made for Blue Bell’s institutional clients such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and retirement communities like the one where David Philip Shockley worked.
Shockley, 32, is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed May 19 against Blue Bell. He was an administrator at a Houston retirement community that was one of Blue Bell institutional clients. Because he suffers from ulcerative colitis, Shockley had been taking immunosuppressive medications since 2012. He had also been regularly snacking on Blue Bell ice cream products while he was at work.
His illness began in late October 2013, with a severe headache with nausea and light sensitivity. He lost consciousness, friends found him un-responsive. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit in acute respiratory failure and septic shock suffering seizures and a fever over 106˚ F. He didn’t fully regain consciousness for six days, according to the complaint. When he did he was unable to walk, talk, swallow, see properly or move much of his body. He was diagnosed with Listeria meningitis and has permanent neurological damage.
Those most at risk are young children, seniors, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women among whom listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, and infection in newborns. Symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, severe headache, muscle stiffness or soreness and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.