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Update: Blue Bell says Listeria threat will always remain

UPDATE:  Blue Bell has since released another statement as a “clarification.”  “In our facilities, we have identified suspected areas where bacteria may be present but in no case have we confirmed Listeria monocytogenes.  The entire purpose of our enhanced environmental testing is to identify locations where bacteria could be found in our facility in order to properly clean and sanitize the surface and prevent contamination.”

Officials with Blue Bell Creameries say they are still finding Listeria bacteria in their facilities, but that their enhanced cleaning procedures are working.

Blue Bell ice creamThe company recalled all of its ice cream and other frozen dairy products April 20, 2015, after an enhanced sampling program found Listeria monocytogenes in more than one product and in more than one plant.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people in four states were hospitalized in connection with that outbreak, and three people in Kansas died.

“Because Listeria is commonly found in the natural environment, no manufacturer can ever assume it can be entirely eradicated,” according to a Jan. 7 news release from the Brenham, Texas, company.

The company is testing every batch of ice cream, according to the release

“We have identified locations where suspected Listeria species may be present in our facility, and we continue to extensively clean and sanitize those areas and make additional enhancements to the facility and our procedures based on the environmental test results.

“To confirm that our robust environmental program is effective, and that our ‘seek and destroy’ goals are being achieved, we expect to periodically find microbiological indications in our facilities.”

In May 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted inspection reports of Blue Bell facilities completed from 2007-2015. The earlier reports did not show evidence of Listeria contamination but noted numerous violations of food safety protocols.

In November, Blue Bell’s Brenham facility was the last of its three plants to go back online, following one Sylacauga, Ala., which started back up in July, and another in Broken Arrow, Okla., which restarted production in September. Blue Bell began distributing limited quantities of its ice cream to selected markets at the end of August, about four months after the recall.

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