Blue Bell Working To Eliminate Possible Listeria Sources In Factories; Says Ice Cream Is Safe

Beloved ice cream brand Blue Bell is still expanding its distribution again after last year’s Listeria contamination and massive recalls. The company issued an update last night about its production facilities with some potentially frightening information: that because “Listeria is commonly found in the natural environment,” and “no manufacturer can ever assume it can be entirely eradicated,” Blue Bell has “identified locations where suspected Listeria species may be present” in its facility. However, they assure the ice cream-eating public that its ice cream isn’t contaminated.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story may have implied that Listeria was definitely found in the Blue Bell facilities. A rep for Blue Bell tells Consumerist that the company has only identified “locations where suspected Listeria may be present in our facility.”]

In their “facilities update,” the company explains that since Listeria is present in the environment, it’s impossible to eradicate it from a building entirely. What they can do is identify those areas and sanitize them frequently while also conducting tests to check for new sites of bacteria in the factory.

They also want customers to know that every batch is being tested. This is so important that they mention it twice in the update, and is clearly meant to reassure the public. While fans are happy to have the products back in stores, it’s understandable that customers might be skittish after recent reports about alleged conditions inside facilities and management cutting corners and failing to listen to employee concerns.

Listeria happens to be a foodborne pathogen that can survive being frozen, which is why its presence in ice cream is a particular threat. The Blue Bell outbreak killed three people and sent twelve to the hospital. In healthy people, infection with listeriosis causes fever and muscle aches, along with diarrhea and abdominal pain. Infection can be life-threatening to people who are elderly, young, or who have compromised immune systems.

Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women, since the infection generally goes beyond the intestinal tract (causing those muscle aches) and can affect the fetus, leading to miscarriage or stillbirth.

An update on our enhanced procedures at our production facilities [Blue Bell Creamery] (via Food Safety News)