According to the Houston Chronicle, Blue Bell wants to drop the precautionary standards it put in place after the deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to its products was revealed in 2014. Ten people were sickened in that outbreak; the illnesses went back to 2010. Instead, the company wants to use the more general safety measures used in the ice cream industry.
But Blue Bell was finding Listeria monocytogenes in its plants a year after the outbreak. And according to FDA records, the company knew about potential Listeria contamination in one of its plants a year before the outbreak.
The Justice Department started an investigation into the company’s practices and is trying to determine when company officials knew about the contamination. FDA officials found Listeria monocytogenes in all three of Blue Bell’s plants that are in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas.
Blue Bell agreed to a test-and-hold procedures in April 2015. That means they tested all of the product that was made, and held it until testing for the pathogenic bacteria came back. They were required to destroy any ice cream that was even suspected of containing Listeria monocytogenes. Then they shipped the product.
Former Blue Bell workers told CBS News last year about insanitary conditions at the plants. One worker said that ice cream would run out of the conveyor belts and land on the floor. Instead of cleaning it up, which would have slowed down the line, it was left on the floor. That created the ideal environment for Listeria to grow. That bacteria grows at refrigerator temperatures, and freezing does not kill it.
The outbreak sickened 10 people in four states. All of the patients were hospitalized. Three people, who were served the ice cream while they were in a hospital, died.
Blue Bell recalled all of its products that were on the market on April 20, 2105. The recall included ice ream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks that were made at all three of its plants. Those products were sold in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming, and international locations.