Blue Bell Recalls All Products Due to Listeria

The recent announcement that Blue Bell would recall all its ice cream products from every Blue Bell manufacturing facility may have raised more questions than it has answered. Blue Bell CEO and President, Paul Kruse, stated the best way to do the “right thing” was to remove all products from the market until it is determined they are safe for consumer consumption. The products in question have the potential to be contaminated with the Listeria bacteria.

What is Listeria?

Listeria can lead to a serious, even fatal infection. The most vulnerable groups include those with weakened immune systems, young children and frail or elderly people. Healthy individuals who contract the listeria infection would likely suffer fever above 101 degrees, an acute headache, which does not abate, pain in the abdomen, nausea, stiffness and diarrhea for a relatively short period. Pregnant women are at particular risk as Listeria has been found to cause stillbirths and miscarriages. Kruse stated the Blue Bell Corporation is “heartbroken” about the situation and fully intends to fix the problem.

How Extensive is the Recall?

The recalled products were distributed to twenty-one states, in retail outlets, convenience stores, supermarkets, and food service accounts. Initially, a sampling of Blue Bell’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream in half gallons tested positive for Listeria in various plants. Over the past year, three people in Kansas are believed to have died from eating Blue Bell products tainted with Listeria. An additional five people in Kansas, one in Oklahoma, one in Arizona and three in Texas also became ill after eating Blue Bell products. The five people who fell ill in Kansas were all patients being treated at the same hospital; four of them drank milkshakes at the hospital made with Blue Bell ice cream. It is not clear whether the fifth patient at the Kansas hospital consumed Blue Bell ice cream.

Listeria Associated with Blue Bell Plants as Far Back as 2010?

This is not the first time Blue Bell has dealt with Listeria issues. In fact, the CDC believes that as far back as January 2010, patients who suffered Listeria illnesses can possibly be tied to the current outbreak of Listeria in Blue Bell products. This determination was made using PulseNet, a database of bacterial DNA. PulseNet is a national laboratory network made up of 87 laboratories with at least one in each state. Foodborne illnesses are connected by using DNA bacterial “fingerprinting”. PulseNet tracks what the CDC reports today and compares it to what was reported in the past. Since PulseNet’s creation, more than a half billion pounds of contaminated food have been recalled, increasing consumer safety. Because of the complexities involved in food preparation, production and distribution, it is virtually impossible to completely eradicate foodborne disease, however tools such as PulseNet currently offer the best way to identify food safety issues.

Listeria Bacteria “Lurking” in Blue Bell Factories for Years?

The origin of the Blue Bell Listeria strain is not yet known; however, the fact it was the same strain over the past five years leads officials to believe the listeria may have been lurking in a factory the entire time. The Listeria strains found in Blue Bell plants in Texas, however, are different than those found in Oklahoma. Blue Bell is currently implementing a procedure known as “test and hold” for every product in every manufacturing facility. Blue Bell products will be tested, and then held for market release until test results confirm safety. Blue Bell uses pasteurized milk, eliminating milk as a means of introducing the Listeria bacteria into the ice cream, however the bacteria could have been carried on a food such as nuts or other ingredients, which go into Blue Bell ice cream flavors. Additionally, officials say that the Listeria bacteria can live for years on surfaces such as pipes and drains.

What Happens Next?

The Broken Arrow facility in Oklahoma will be closed until the results of the investigation are analyzed. CEO Kruse stated the daily sanitizing and cleaning routines of all equipment would be expanded, with the company’s current system of swabbing and testing the plant environment being expanded by 800 percent. Daily samples will be sent from the plants to microbiology labs for testing and additional employee training will be implemented. As soon as Blue Bell is confident the safety of its products has been restored, distribution will resume. Consumers who have purchased Blue Bell items can return them to the place of purchase and receive a full refund. Until that time, the CDC recommends consumers refrain from eating Blue Bell products.

Philadelphia Consumer Protection Lawyers

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury because of food contamination, such as listeria, you may be able to file a lawsuit. To learn more about your consumer rights and legal options, call the Philadelphia consumer lawyers at Golomb Legal today.