After a deadly Listeria outbreak triggered a shutdown of its ice cream manufacturing facilities, Blue Bell Creameries is restarting production on a limited basis. During a test period, production will resume at the company’s plant in Sylacauga, Ala. where changes to the facility, the process and employee training have been put in place. A firm date for the start of ice cream sales has not been set.
“We have been working diligently to prepare our facilities to resume test production, and our focus throughout this process has been to ensure the public that when our products return to market, they are safe,” said Greg Bridges, vice president of operations for Blue Bell. “We are very excited about taking these important first steps as part of the process of getting high-quality Blue Bell products back to consumers.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ended its investigation into the Blue Bell Listeria outbreak last month. Several strains of Listeria were involved in the outbreak tied to the nation’s third-largest ice cream maker. At least 10 people were sickened, three people died.
Listeria strains from outbreak patients were were identical to those found in ice cream made at the company’s plants in Brenham, Texas and Broken Arrow, Okla. The earliest cases were identified in 2010.
After the ice cream was linked to the outbreak, Blue Bell began a series of product recalls, eventually recalling all of its products on April 20. Consumers who may still have Blue Blue products in their freezers should not eat them.
The five-year span of the outbreak uncovered a longstanding Listeria problem at all of Blue Bell’s plants. Reports released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 7 showed the company was aware of Listeria in its plants in 2013 but did not test the bacteria to discover if it was pathogenic or take measures to eradicate the problem.
In May, the national food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen filed the first lawsuit stemming from the Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream. The suit was filed on behalf of David Philip Shockley, a 33-year-old Maryland man who developed Listeria meningitis that left him with severe neurological impairment.