Certain flavors of Blue Bell ice cream are being recalled because of listeria concerns. It’s the second time the company has had to take ice cream off the shelves, but this one is a little different. Blue Bell is only recalling products produced in an Alabama plant because they were made with a chocolate chip cookie dough supplied by a third party.
One of the problems with listeria is that it's basically ubiquitous. When it gets into foods like cheese or ice cream, it can make people sick and can even kill. Barry Parsons, a food safety expert, said companies are getting better at finding it, but it’s probably always going to be there.
“Can it be prevented? Yes. Can it be 100 percent eliminated? I don’t think so," he said. "But ultimately, the company is responsible to insure that once it hits the public, once it gets into the stream of commerce, that it is free and clear of any listeria.”
That’s why Blue Bell is erring on the safe side. The company took a major hit last year when it had to recall all of its ice cream because listeria was found in its factory. It changed its testing protocol and had to go on a public relations spending spree.
Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer in Seattle, said recalling a product isn't cheap.
“Just the cost of the whole process of recalling it and having customers upset and restaurants upset recalling all of that product is expensive,” he said.
But Marler said the cost of a recall is better than the alternative — going out of business. That can happen if people don’t trust the food a company is selling.
For Blue Bell, this recall isn’t because anyone got sick, it’s more of a precaution because listeria was found at the plant where the cookie dough used in its ice cream is made.
Jay Neal, assistant provost at the University of Houston-Sugarland, said Blue Bell’s product loyalty is unlike any he’s ever seen, and he thinks the company will be just fine.
"I think, really, the consumer’s response is going to be, ‘I can’t get cookie dough? OK, I’m going to get two gallons of the ones I can get just in case,'" he said. "It wouldn’t surprise me if sales went up.”
People in Texas say it’s the best ice cream in the country.