Blue Bell Creameries’ Listeria Problems Date Back to 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries knew there was listeria in one of the company’s plants as far back as March 2013, according to a government investigation. But the company didn’t issue any recalls or shut down its production until after the products were linked to listeria illnesses this year — including three deaths in Kansas.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released results of its investigations into Blue Bell’s plants in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama after a Freedom of Information request by The Associated Press. The most extensive violations were found in Oklahoma, where the FDA listed 17 positive tests for listeria on equipment and around its plant there from March 2013 through February 2015.

Neither Blue Bell nor the FDA has said why the Oklahoma plant was not closed after repeated findings of listeria, which wasn’t found in the food but in multiple locations around the plant. Blue Bell said it cleaned the areas, but FDA said in its report that cleaning wasn’t adequate.

Blue Bell recalled all of its products and shut down production last month after listeria was found in samples of the company’s ice cream and the illnesses and deaths were linked to its products.

The FDA would not say who conducted the tests that found listeria in the Oklahoma plant, but it noted that Blue Bell sent “presumptive positive” listeria samples to a third party for confirmation on at least two occasions in 2014. The auditors re-tested the samples and came back with the same results.

Blue Bell continued to have presumptive positive listeria results in the Oklahoma plant even after the daily cleaning and sanitizing treatments of equipment and facilities, the FDA wrote.

After the test results were made public, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a statement it would be “several months at a minimum” before —> Read More