Blue Bell Safety Measures Detect Listeria in Plant, Not Product
Representatives with Blue Bell Creameries announced this week that new safety procedures led to the detection of what may be Listeria in one of its plants, but stressed that no Blue Bell products have tested positive for the bacteria.
The company issued the following press release Thursday:
An update on our enhanced procedures at our production facilities
Brenham, TX, January 7, 2016 – 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 reps have not said which of their facilities tested positive.
The new safety procedures are part of an agreement with the Texas Department of State Health Services reached back in May – nearly one month after Blue Bell voluntarily recalled all its products after Listeria was detected in several batches, some of which were linked to illnesses in a handful of states and at least one patient death in a Wichita, Kansas hospital.
In December of 2015, the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation of Blue Bell's handling of the situation and to determine when the company initially became aware of the prescense of Listeria in its products and facilities.