Freezer cases across Texas are a little emptier today. Blue Bell has recalled all of its products after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeriosis.
This is the first mass recall for Blue Bell. The company’s been making ice cream in Brenham, about three hours south of Dallas, for more than a century. The company’s CEO and President Paul Kruse issued a video statement last night.
“We’re committed to fixing the problem,” he said. “Ice cream is a joy and a pleasure to eat and it should never be a cause for concern. And for that, we do apologize and we’re going to get it right.”
Today, grocery stores pulled the ice cream from shelves.
Gary Huddleston is the director of consumer affairs for Kroger. He says everyone’s trying to sort the issue out.
“It’s certainly difficult for the customer and difficult for Blue Bell, but we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our customers and if they have any Blue Bell product at home, we want them to bring it back to Kroger and we’ll be happy to refund their money.”
Fans of the ice cream icon mourned on social media and in stores across Texas. Kroger customer Micheaux Thomas was caught up in one of the first, limited Blue Bell recalls.
“I bought some Blue Bell ice cream and the guy was checking me out just the other day and he looked on the list and said ‘You bought some Blue Bell ice cream; we’ve got a recall and can give you your money back.’ I said ‘Man, could you tell me how long ago that was?’ He said ‘A few weeks ago.’ I said: ‘Guess what. I done ate that ice cream.’”
Thomas laughed, but feels fine – no symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control reported today 10 people in four states developed listeriosis from Blue Bell products over the last five years. Three of them came from Texas. Three deaths were reported in Kansas.
Original story: Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries is recalling all of its products on the market after two samplings of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeriosis.
Blue Bell's chief executive Paul Kruse said in a statement Monday night that the company "can't say with certainty" how the bacteria was introduced to the manufacturing line.
The company last month issued its first recall after ice cream contaminated with listeriosis was linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital. Five others in Kansas and Texas were sickened with the disease.
The foodborne illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
The recall extends to retail outlets in 23 states and internationally.
Video: Blue Bell CEO issues a statement
Read Blue Bell's press release
Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, Texas, is voluntarily recalling all of its products currently on the market made at all of its facilities including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president. “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”
The products being recalled are distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.
Today’s decision was the result of findings from an enhanced sampling program initiated by Blue Bell which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17, 2015, and March 27, 2015, contained the bacteria. This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants and as previously reported five patients were treated in Kansas and three in Texas after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
“At every step, we have made decisions in the best interest of our customers based on the evidence we had available at the time,” Kruse said. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities and so we have taken this unprecedented step. We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem.”
Blue Bell is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.
In addition to the “test and hold” system, Blue Bell is implementing additional safety procedures and testing including:
- Expanding our already robust system of daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment
- Expanding our system of swabbing and testing our plant environment by 800
percent to include more surfaces
- Sending samples daily to a leading microbiology laboratory for testing
- Providing additional employee training
Blue Bell expects to resume distribution soon on a limited basis once it is confident in the safety of its product.
Consumers who have purchased these items are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information consumers with questions may call 1-866-608-3940 Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CST or go to bluebell.com.