Blue Bell recalls all products

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Expanding recalls it began March 13, Blue Bell Creameries has voluntarily taken all of its products off shelves due to possible listeria monocytogenes contamination.

A spokesman for the Texas-based company said layoffs are not anticipated. With its move into Virginia, Blue Bell set up a distribution facility in North Suffolk in 2013, and plans to expand operations here.

“During this process, we need our employees more than ever to help us with this major recall effort, so we do not anticipate layoffs,” Joe Robertson said in an email.

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“We expect the recall will take two to three weeks, after which we can resume normal operations, but we are going to be sure everything is 100-percent right before doing so.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Tuesday, 10 people in four states had been infected with listeriosis related to the outbreak. Three deaths were reported in Kansas.

Infection with the listeria organism can be fatal in young children, the frail or elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system. For pregnant females, it can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

Healthy people can suffer short-term symptoms including high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

“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,” Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse stated in a news release.

“We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. 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.”

Monday’s decision came after “an enhanced sampling program” by the company revealed certain chocolate chip cookie dough half-gallons had the bacteria. Blue Bell has now had “several positive tests for listeria in different places and plants.”

Blue Bell has announced it will only release products to market after tests show they are safe. Additionally, daily equipment cleaning and sanitizing will be expanded, “swabbing and testing our plant environment” will be increased 800 percent, daily samples will be sent for testing to a “leading microbiology laboratory,” and employees will get additional training.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, listeria was detected in samples of Blue Bell products taken by its officers as well as those with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The FDA has opened investigations at Blue Bell manufacturing facilities.

Consumers are urged to throw away or return any Blue Bell products in their freezer. Items can be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund.