Blue Bell investigated for deadly Listeria after an outbreak killed three persons earlier this year.
The ice cream that killed the three people was coming from three different production plants located in three different states – Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. More than that, the FDA investigation showed that the company knew since 2013 that one of their plants was contaminated.
The investigation found that the plants were using unsanitary equipment and that the condensation was dripping directly into the ice cream, besides other problems. As a result the Company has closed all their production facilities and recalled all their ice cream.
According to CBS News the Department of Justice is investigating what did the management knew about the deadly hazards in their production facilities and since when.
Gerald Bland, a former worker for the Brenham factory in Texas described unsanitary conditions in the facility since last October. One of the things exposed by Bland is how the rain water could escape through the roof and reach the 3-gallon machine and other areas of the factory.
Terry Schultz is another employee who came out and told the media that his several complaints about the unsanitary conditions were never reviewed by the management. On the contrary, he was told to stop ‘bitching’ and start working, making it clear that production is more important than hygiene.
State inspectors came to the Brenham factory every six weeks and the Army inspected the facility four times every year. None of the inspectors reported any serious sanitary violations.
In March, after the Listeria outbreak the contaminated production line was immediately closed but production continued in other parts of the factories for a few weeks.
Listeria usually affects people with compromised immune systems like elderly, newborns and pregnant women. It can cause gastrointestinal problems, muscle aches, fever and the most serious cases can be fatal. It is very dangerous for pregnant women since it can cause premature labor, stillbirth, miscarriage and illness or even death in newborns.
The bacteria can be found in soil, water or it can be carried by animals. It is very difficult to get rid of it from a place such as an ice cream factory since it grows well in cool environment. Usually it is found in unpasteurized milk and cheeses, in processed meats but also in other foods.
The production facilities are now running again and the company promised that the ice cream will be back on the store’s shelves in 15 states by the end of the month.
Image source: flickr