Q: What is happening with the recall?
A: 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.
This does not mean that all the products are contaminated – we believe the vast majority are not – only that that they have the potential to be. We took the extra precaution of recalling all of them because we are committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of the products off the market until we can be confident they are safe.
Q: Why did you make such a substantial recall?
A: Our 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. Because this new finding meant that Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants, we felt the safest thing for our customers was to voluntarily recall all our products.
Q: What have you changed to make things safe?
A: We are implementing additional safety procedures and testing, including:
- Evaluating and making facility repairs, including replacing floors, floor tiles and ceiling tiles, as needed.
- Conducting thorough cleaning and sanitizing, including disassembling and steam cleaning all equipment, and inspecting and sanitizing all HVAC systems.
- Working with a team of independent microbiologists to review and revise all cleaning and sanitization procedures, and installing new control systems to provide higher hot water temperatures for cleaning and sanitizing.
- Eliminating possible contamination pathways, including redesigning work spaces to re-route traffic in production areas, placing barriers between work areas, installing additional foot washers at doors into production areas, and discontinuing use of outside materials such as wood pallets in sanitary areas.
- Establishing revised protocols and quality assurance requirements for environmental and product sample testing, including a more rigorous monitoring program for Listeria.
- Destroying existing cardboard containers, boxes and product wrappers that could potentially provide a pathway for contamination. Plants will discontinue the reuse of cardboard shipping sleeves.
- Continuing employee training in microbiology and detailed cleaning and sanitization methods and systems.
Q: What should people do if they have Blue Bell products in their home?
A: Please return the product to the store where you purchased it for a full refund. Or, consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.
Q: Should people eat old Blue Bell products?
A: Please don’t consume Blue Bell products. Instead, please return the product to the store where you purchased it for a refund.
Q: What should people do if they feel sick?
A: We encourage people with health concerns to seek advice from their doctors or other medical professionals.
Q: Who should people call?
A: Consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or go to www.bluebell.com at any time for the most current information.
Q: When did you first learn that Listeria linked to Blue Bell was also linked to events dating back to 2010?
A: We were only notified in April 2015 that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had performed research and linked the DNA fingerprint from the Listeria found in Blue Bell products to cases of Listeriosis dating back to 2010. The linkage was established retroactively using technology called whole genome sequencing, which has only recently been used to track Listeria outbreaks.