Blue Bell Creameries announced Thursday that it has signed voluntary agreements with state regulatory agencies that outline strict testing, cleaning, production, and distribution requirements following recent recalls due to listeria contamination.

Under an agreement with the Texas Department of State Health Services, Blue Bell must notify the agency at least two weeks before resuming production at its Brenham, TX facility so that health officials can conduct a full assessment of the company’s progress and test results. The company must then conduct trial production runs of ice cream that will be tested by both DSHS and independent experts hired by Blue Bell. Tests will also be conducted on ingredients, food surfaces, machinery, and other equipment in the Brenham facility.

If each production line tests negative for listeria, Blue Bell can resume producing ice cream for sale. For the first two years after resuming production, the company will be required to report any positive test result for listeria in its food or ingredients to DSHS within 24 hours. For the first year, Blue Bell must also implement “test and hold” procedures for all finished products before they can be distributed for sale to the public.

Blue Bell is currently working with state health officials to review deep-cleaning and sanitation processes, as well as employee health training. The company has also hired an independent expert to monitor sanitation efforts and determine what caused the listeria contamination in the first place.

Blue Bell has signed a similar agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry in hopes of reopening its plant in Broken Arrow, OK.

Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse said Thursday that the company is “committed to meeting the high standards and expectations of our customers and our regulatory agencies.”
“State and federal regulatory agencies play an important role in food safety, and we hope that it will be reassuring to our customers that we are working cooperatively with the states of Texas and Oklahoma in taking the necessary steps to bring Blue Bell Ice Cream back to the market,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration issued a report that said Blue Bell was aware of positive listeria tests in its Brenham and Broken Arrow plants as early as March of 2013, but took inadequate steps to sanitize the facilities and did not issue recalls.

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