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Reuters reports this morning that Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries has revealed that listeria once again has been found in one of its production facilities, though not in its ice cream.

The discovery comes some months after Blue Bell had to stop production and shipping of its ice cream, as well as recall all of its products from 25 states, "after 10 reported cases of listeria in four states were linked to Blue Bell frozen treats. Three of the people sickened, all hospital patients in Kansas, later died."

Blue Bell engaged in a major cleanup effort in order to address the problem, and is once again manufacturing and shipping ice cream, with brand enthusiasts apparently welcoming it back to their freezers.

Reuters writes that Blue Bell "did not specify in a statement in which of its three facilities listeria had been found but said that none was found in any of its ice cream. Blue Bell said it is moving to eliminate the bacteria through a 'seek and destroy' process.

"'We expect to periodically find microbiological indications in our facilities,' said Blue Bell, which declined comment beyond the statement. The company credited its 'enhanced, robust testing system' for why it found the bacteria.

"The company noted that because listeria is commonly found in the natural environment, 'no manufacturer can ever assume it will be entirely eradicated'."
KC's View:
I'm not doubting Blue Bell's sincerity, but I do have to admire how it is working to turn the new listeria case into proof that it is doing abetter job at detection and eradication.

I am a little surprised, though, since if I recall correctly, when the original cases of listeria came to light, a common reaction was consternation, since listeria can't grow at freezing temperatures, so it was surprising to find it in ice cream. Now, Blue Bell seems to be saying that it is more common than previously admitted, that "we expect to periodically find microbiological indications in our facilities."

And when Blue Bell refuses to say which facility is involved ... well, this sounds uncomfortably close to the ham-handed way in which it communicated about and dealt with the first contaminations. Transparency, it seems, often is not the first instinct at Blue Bell headquarters.

I do know this. Given a choice, I won't eat Blue Bell ice cream products. Now, I gather that the only thing this really proves is that I'm not from Texas ... but I do have to wonder when these continuing problems will catch up to the company.

Also, in a broader sense, I think this continuing food safety issue, especially when added to the problems being experienced by Chipotle, points to why retailers and manufacturers have to put a great premium on their food safety experts, adhering to and even exceeding the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).