December 17, 2017

Blue Bell Plants to Get Intensive Cleaning, Retraining, Re-engineering

Sue Blue BellBlue Bell Ice Cream announced an intensive cleaning, retraining and re-engineering plan to start next week to exterminate Listeria monocytogenes  — the pathogen that led to a deadly outbreak of listeriosis in Kansas. Three people in Wichita are dead after contracting the disease last year. The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked the illnesses to consumption of milkshakes made from Blue Bell ice cream from Brenham, Texas. Another cluster of listeriosis in Texas has been tied to Blue Bell ice cream made in Oklahoma. The company also has a manufacturing plant in Alabama and recently announced a complete recall of all its ice cream after once again finding the pathogen in line samples of its products.

“We intend to make a fresh start,” said Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse, who plans to start the overhaul on Monday, April 27. “This is a paradigm shifting event.”

The three people who died in Wichita’s Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital last year won’t have a chance at a fresh start and their survivors could sue Blue Bell.

According to the FDA and CDC, five people at the hospital who were admitted for unrelated ailments were stricken by Listeria bacteria from Blue Bell ‘Scoops’ ice cream served to them in the form of milkshakes. Molecular testing ‘fingerprinted’ the strains of Listeria that made the patients ill and disease sleuths matched the prints to Blue Bell ice cream.  Similar analysis helped health authorities discover an earlier outbreak of listeriosis in Texas that infected at least three case patients over several years.

Texas-based Blue Bell said the intensive cleaning will happen simultaneously with new training for employees at all four of the company’s production facilities. Ice cream being produced during the week will be used for testing and data-gathering and will not be sold to the public, Blue Bell announced.

The company said its improvements will include highly aggressive cleaning techniques and equipment design changes.

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