Blue Bell Creameries is under fire for its listeria contamination, which led to a complete recall last month. An investigation by federal regulators is pointing to the company having evidence of Listeria bacteria in its Oklahoma factory back in March 2013.
After what the FDA is calling an inadequate cleaning, Blue Bell continued to ship ice cream produced from the manufacturing plant. The listeria outbreak has been linked to three deaths in Kansas, and complete product recall.
Blue Bell Investigation
Details of the FDA report were released after the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information request. While the FDA investigated plants in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas, the worst offender was Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Blue Bell Violations:
The FDA investigation found the plant did not keep food at adequate temperatures, dirty equipment, employees not following hand washing protocols and poor food storage.
It all adds up to me never wanting to touch a Blue Bell product again.
Alabama Blue Bell Violations:
The violations were not as extensive as Oklahoma, but FDA inspectors did see two employees handling food wearing dirty clothing. Blue Bell’s Alabama plant also had dirty equipment, and the infrastructure made it hard to clean.
Texas Blue Bell Violations:
In Texas, FDA inspectors documented condensation dripping into food and surfaces where food would come into direct contact. The Texas plant joined Alabama and Oklahoma with dirty equipment violations and a layout that made cleaning equipment difficult.
The Future of Blue Bell
For now, the company is focusing on fixing the problems that introduced the listeria contamination. It could be months before the product is back on shelves. What does this mean for the company? It’s unknown. Blue Bell is at the mercy of the consumer.
There are two ways to look at it. One is the gun-shy consumer. They see the headlines and move to another brand. The other? Customers feel Blue Bell will clean up its act and become the most hygienic producer.
A bigger message should come out of the contamination and recall. It’s time for more health inspectors. We are counting on what amounts to a handful of FDA inspectors to keep our food supply safe.
Was Blue Bell negligent? Definitely. But, the federal government is just as negligent. It’s time to revamp standards and regulations to prevent these contaminations and outbreaks.