The Texas Ice Cream Company, Blue Bell Creameries, did not disclose that its Oklahoma plant was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, until three deaths linked to its products were reported, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The victims were among 10 patients in four states who were infected with strains of Listeria monocytogenes between January 2010 and January 2015. The states include Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Five patients in a hospital in Kansas had one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. Three of the strains were found in products made by Blue Bell. Whole genome sequencing established the connection.
Listerosis is a serious infection and can be fatal for certain high risk groups, including the elderly, people with cancer and/or weakened immune systems. It can cause miscarriages, still births, premature labor, and can be fatal for newborns.
Anyone hospitalized with listerosis, or a food borne disease in the last several years, or relatives of those who have died from these diseases, should consult Wayne Wright LLP. For 30 years, the firm has successfully represented victims of dangerous and life-threatening practices by companies that knowingly hid risks to the general public.
Investigations over the last several months by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials show that the 100-year old Brenham, Texas ice cream company did not properly maintain and sanitize its three ice cream plants in Brenham, Texas, Sylacauga, Alabama and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
An FDA inspection of the Oklahoma plant found the firm failed “to manufacture and package foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms and contamination…,” according to a report the federal agency sent to Blue Bell on March 23, 2015.
The report further noted that the ice cream company did not “perform microbial testing when necessary to identify sanitation failures…” The procedures that it used “…for cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils…” were not adequate. It also faulted the company for failing “…to provide running water at a suitable temperature for cleaning of equipment, utensils and food-packaging materials.”
It found that some Blue Bell employees came to work in dirty clothing and did not properly wash their hands “after each absence” from their work stations; that food was not stored in ways to reduce contamination; that “the design of equipment did not allow for proper cleaning and maintenance,” and that food was not stored at correct temperatures.
On April 20, 2015 Blue Bell voluntarily recalled all its products in institutions and retail stores in 23 states and international locations, including hospitals, schools, supermarkets and convenience stores. The company says it is in the process of cleaning and sanitizing its plants and will not return its products to stores until tests show that its facilities are sanitary.