Blog: Dean BestBlue Bell Creameries involved in another safety scare

Dean Best | 26 September 2016

Blue Bell Creameries is trying to win back the trust of consumers after a fatal listeriosis outbreak last year was linked to its products - but in recent days the US ice cream maker has issued another recall amid concerns a product could contain a strain of the listeria bacteria.

On Wednesday (21 September), Blue Bell said it was pulling two lines made at its plant in Sylacauga in Alabama that were made with a chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient supplied by Aspen Hills.

Blue Bell said there was "potential" for the ingredient to contain listeria monocytogenes. It said the ice cream containing the ingredient was shipped to ten US states in the south of the country.

The company said the "potential problem" had been seen through its "intensified internal testing" and added: "Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution. This recall is being conducted in cooperation with the FDA."

Aspen Hills issued its own recall the previous day, in which it said the ingredient in question was sent to Blue Bell's plant in Brenham in Texas, as well as the factory in Alabama.

The company also insisted its ingredient tested negative before it was supplied to Blue Bell.

"The recalled product did test negative for the presence of listeria before they left our facility; we have a test-and-hold procedure," a spokesperson for Aspen Hills said. "We have no information as to what may have happened to the product after it left our control."

Speaking to just-food, Blue Bell said its testing procedures had "identified potential listeria in chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in Brenham" before the ice cream was released. "We immediately placed the product on hold, and it has not and will not be distributed into the marketplace."

Blue Bell also insisted it had found listeria monocytogenes in boxes of the ingredient that had not been opened.

"We investigated the situation and tested unopened boxes of chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient provided by a third-party supplier and confirmed the presence of listeria monocytogenes in the cookie dough ingredient. We think it is important that you know that the boxes of cookie dough ingredient we tested from the supplier were unopened, and we confirmed listeria monocytogenes in the chocolate chip cookie dough ingredient, as did our regulators," the company said.

The scare is the last thing Blue Bell needs as it tries to restore its reputation after last year's affair.

Blue Bell recalled all its products in the spring of 2015 and shut three plants after its products were linked to a fatal listeriosis outbreak. Production at the Sylacuga site started last July, as part of a phased re-boot of the company's manufacturing. The company said it had introduced a series of "new procedures and enhancements" at the sites.

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