A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report suggests that Blue Bell was aware of listeria contamination at its Broken Arrow facility since 2013.
In mid-March this year Blue Bell Creameries recalled some of its products due to listeria contamination. Subsequently, the ice cream maker recalled all its products and production in all of its facilities halted. Paul Kruse, the CEO of the company, revealed that production will start once the ice cream maker is 100 percent confident that all its facilities are contamination free.
The company as well as FDA have been investigating the listeria contamination, and now the federal agency has released its findings. FDA reveals that Blue Bell was aware of listeria contamination at its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma facility since 2013. The listeria bacteria were present in non-food areas.
"Listeria spp. was isolated from non-food contact areas within the processing room and kitchen and from non-food contact surfaces of production equipment. These included 5 samples in 2013, 10 samples in 2014, 1 sample in January, and 1 sample in February of 2015. In addition, environmental samples collected by the FDA on 03/24/2015 and 03/25/2015 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes," per [pdf] the FDA report.
The FDA document also revealed that the Broken Arrow facility failed to determine why its sanitizing and cleaning programs were not effective enough for controlling repeated microbiological contaminations.
The document also highlighted some other issues at the Broken Arrow facility that may spread contamination. The FDA report suggests that they observed on one occasion that employees do not wash their hands properly. Food contamination may also spread from contaminated surface or packaging of the food material.
Other plants located at Sylacauga and Brenham also had similar issues.
On Monday, April 27, Blue Bell revealed that it will adopt a new training program for all employees al all its facilities to ensure future food safety.
"We've always worked to make the very highest quality ice cream," says Kruse. "We intend to make a fresh start and that begins with intensive cleaning and enhanced training. This is a paradigm shifting event at Blue Bell and we want to put in place new systems to drive continuous improvement."
The company also announced that it is producing ice for testing, which will enable Blue Bell to gather more data. The ice will not be sold to the public.
Photo: Jonny Hunter | Flickr