Cookie dough ice cream test triggers Blue Bell recall

by Keith Nunes
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Two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream manufactured at Blue Bell's Brenham plant tested positive for Listeria.

BRENHAM, TEXAS — A positive test for Listeria monocytogenes from two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream manufactured at the company’s Brenham plant between March 17 and March 27 has prompted Blue Bell Creameries to recall all products from the marketplace.

“At every step, we have made decisions in the best interest of our customers based on the evidence we had available at the time,” said Paul Kruse, president and chief executive officer. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities, and so we have taken this unprecedented step. We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem.”

The crisis at Blue Bell has unfolded gradually over the last month (see related stories). In what started as an issue at the company’s plant in Brenham has spread to its plant in Broken Arrow, Okla. The company said it has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places from different plants.

Over this period, eight cases of listeriosis have been documented, including five in Kansas and three in Texas. Three fatalities have been reported. All three of the victims had been patients at a Kansas hospital and had eaten milk shakes containing contaminated Blue Bell ice cream.

While it was positive tests of half gallons of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream that triggered the recall, earlier samples testing positive were 3-oz cups of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

Blue Bell Creameries also announced it is initiating a test and hold program for all products manufactured at the Brenham plant. The Broken Arrow plant remains closed as the company searches for the source of contamination at that plant.

The products being recalled have been distributed to retailers and food service accounts in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,  South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations, according to the company.

“We’re committed to doing the 100% 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,” Mr. Kruse said. “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. 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.”
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