Blue Bell to ‘reassess everything’ after listeria outbreak, traces source of contamination at one plant

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HOUSTON, Texas (June 11, 2015) — Blue Bell has pledged to “reassess everything” after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its final report on the listeria outbreak that killed three people.

The CDC’s investigation found 10 people were infected in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas from January 2010 to January 2015. All 10 were hospitalized; three of the Kansas victims died.

Blue Bell traced the source of contamination at its Oklahoma plant, but hasn’t yet pinpointed what caused the problem at its Texas plant. The company provided the information to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to federal inspections. The FDA released the report Wednesday after a Freedom of Information request from the Associated Press.

Blue Bell ice cream products at the plant in Broken Arrow, Okla., may have been contaminated by equipment and sealed-ingredient buckets stored in a non-sanitary room, the AP reported.

Blue Bell launched a massive recall of all of its products in April. The CDC warned people could still get infected because the recalled products may still be in customers’ freezers.

The company temporarily closed two factories in Oklahoma and Texas after launching the recall. In mid-May, Blue Bell laid off more than 1,400 workers, the first layoffs in the 108-year history of the company.

The company said it would take immediate corrective action in response to the CDC investigation in a post on its website:

Blue Bell is taking the FDA observations very seriously, according to CEO and President Paul Kruse, noting that the company’s highest priority is to produce safe, wholesome, high-quality products for consumers to enjoy.

The company is currently in the process of comprehensively reviewing all aspects of operations at the three facilities. Because listeria is ubiquitous in the environment, the company has adopted a broadly focused remediation plan aimed at confronting any possible sources of contamination.

This process has led Blue Bell to “reassess everything” about its operations and identify a number of enhancements that will be made, including updated environmental and product testing procedures.

The company is focusing on ensuring that all aspects of its facilities and production lines are clean and sanitary, and result in a safe product, Kruse said.

Blue Bell is taking a consistent approach at all of its facilities, and will be using the same standard operating procedures, testing programs, supplier verification procedures, and overall philosophy at the three plants.