March 4, 2024

Blue Bell Attacking Listeria Problem with Overhaul of Facilities

Major floor repairs and potential work on ventilation systems at Blue Bell ice cream plants will be part of an intensive maintenance overhaul that could take months to complete, the Texas company said in a public statement this week. The effort also will include disassembly of equipment and extensive swabbing of surfaces in search of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria that have crept into the company’s products for several years.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice CreamPublic health authorities brought the contamination to light in an investigation of three Listeria deaths in Kansas last year traced to milkshakes made from Blue Bell “Scoops” ice cream. Now they know that a total of 10 people have been sickened in the outbreak in four states. Half of the victims ate ice cream from Texas facilities and half ate ice cream from Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are committed to doing whatever it takes to get this right,” said Greg Bridges, vice president of operations for Blue Bell. “Our manufacturing facilities, especially the two in Brenham (Texas) are large and complex, so we anticipate this process will take some time.”

The company, which distributes ice cream to about half of the United States, said 750 of its plant operations employees attended a training session on microbiology and prevention of pathogens within the past week. It was the first step of an enhanced training program by the company, which has pulled all of its frozen dessert products off the market because they might be contaminated with Listeria. The CDC’s advisory is that consumers should not eat Blue Bell ice cream and retailers should not sell it.

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