Blue Bell signs agreements with three states to address Listeria contamination.

  • As previously covered on this blog, Blue Bell Creameries has been dealing with the aftermath of a multi-state listeriosis outbreak linked to consumption of its ice cream products.  FDA has published inspectional observations for Blue Bell production facilities, indicating the company’s awareness of food safety violations in facilities dating back to 2007, as well as positive tests for Listeria monocytogenes in one plant as far back as 2013.
  • Blue Bell has signed voluntary agreements with health departments in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas specifying various steps that the company plans to take to address Listeria contamination prior to resuming the sale of products in these states.  The agreements include action items such as conducting root cause analyses to identify sources and potential sources of contamination; retaining the services of an independent microbiology consultant; notifying the health department of presumptive positive tests for Listeria and providing access to test results; targeting Listeria response as part of the company’s environmental monitoring program; and instituting a “test and hold” program prior to product distribution.
  • The agreements are illustrative of an extra-legal or quasi-enforcement strategy that state and local health authorities may deploy in the wake of a food safety crisis.  Particularly because of the high level of publicity associated with the Blue Bell situation, the agreements could have precedential value in the handling of future multi-state outbreaks.