A multistate outbreak of Listeria that hospitalized 10 and which was linked to the deaths of three people in Kansas led Blue Bell Creamery to voluntarily recall all of its products and halt its operations. The 108-year old company, based in Brenham, Texas, enjoys a cult-like status in the state (and elsewhere). While the closure of its production line may be temporary, it’s having an impact. Beth Goulart Monson (@Beth_Goulart) is a free lance food writer based in Austin, Texas. She penned this piece for National Geographic’s The Plate.
“That might not seem like a big deal if you’re not from Texas. But many Texans eat no other ice cream. It’s not so much food snobbery as it is habit–and perhaps a dash of Texas pride. It’s the only ice cream many have ever eaten. So it’s not like Texans are down one brand of ice cream in the supermarket freezer case. It’s like they’re plumb out of ice cream.”
Blue Bell was forced to lay off 1,450 employees and furlough an additional 1,400. Fans of the company are commiserating on social media. One, Gretchen Opersteny, “started a Facebook page called We Stand with Blue Bell Creameries.” It struck a chord.
“Within three days there were 23,000 likes on the page,” she says. Now she’s using it to raise money to help Blue Bell workers who have lost their jobs.
Juan Lozano (@juanlozano70) of the Associated Press reported today that Blue Bell believes it has isolated the problem at its Oklahoma facility, but is still working to identify the source point of contamination at its plant in Texas. The company has submitted plans for how it intends to address the issues to the FDA.
“We hope our efforts demonstrate the seriousness with which we are taking this situation, as well as our commitment to making sure we get this right,” Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse said in a statement.
“Once Blue Bell, the FDA and the applicable state regulators agree we are ready to reintroduce products into commerce, we plan to resume production with a phased-in selection of flavors and sizes, expanding only after our revised programs have demonstrated they are capable of ensuring product safety,” Kruse said.