Food Safety

Blue Bell Warns Its Factories Still Have Some Listeria in Them

<i>I'm baaaack</i>, says listeria.
I’m baaaack, says listeria. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Bell

Depending on how you feel about pathogens, Blue Bell either just released a boilerplate update or shared a serious word to the wise about the listeria previously colonizing its plants: There’s still technically some of it hanging around at least one factory.

Details are few, beyond that the company is aware of “locations” where the “species may be present in our facility,” but it’s important to note the mere existence of this dangerous bacteria isn’t cause for alarm. It’s about where said things are, and the point of Blue Bell’s update is to assure everyone the “enhanced” safety procedures are working properly to keep the pathogens out of the production line, or anywhere else where they could come into contact with ice cream. (Although consumers could be forgiven if they don’t find this confidence-inspiring, considering they’ve heard that spiel before.) The Justice Department, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out if executives knew about listeria before the big outbreak and kept producing ice cream anyway, so this whole thing could get even messier before it clears back up.

The company’s announcement is sort of a masterwork in doublespeak. Chipotle should take note:

As we complete our final phase of distribution, we wanted to update our loyal customers on what has been going on in our production facilities. We continue to strictly adhere to our enhanced operations, policies, employee training and cleaning procedures to help give regulatory agencies and the public assurance that all aspects of our facilities and operations are resulting in a safe product.

We continually reinforce to our employees that eliminating all potential sources of contamination is our number one priority so that we can stay committed to producing safe and high quality products for customers to enjoy.

Because Listeria is commonly found in the natural environment, no manufacturer can ever assume it can be entirely eradicated. We have worked closely with our expert team of microbiologists to develop an enhanced, robust testing system specifically designed for each facility to identify any possible presence of Listeria in the production environment, including extensive environmental testing and testing every single batch of ice cream we make before it is sold to customers.

We are pleased that our enhanced environmental and product testing procedures are working. We have identified locations where suspected Listeria species may be present in our facility, and we continue to extensively clean and sanitize those areas and make additional enhancements to the facility and our procedures based on the environmental test results. To confirm that our robust environmental program is effective, and that our “seek and destroy” goals are being achieved, we expect to periodically find microbiological indications in our facilities. Since our plants reopened, we have tested and will continue to test every batch of ice cream produced, and no products produced have tested positive for Listeria.

We will continue to work closely with our regulatory agencies, as we have throughout this process, and our number one priority will continue to be making sure our products are safe for our customers to enjoy.

[Blue Bell, Fox 4]

Blue Bell Warns Factories Still Have Listeria