The Texas Health Department fined Blue Bell Creameries $850,000 as a penalty for last year’s deadly Listeria outbreak. A Listeria contamination was found at all three Blue Bell plants — Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama — resulting in a national recall of all company products.
Texas and Blue Bell finalized the penalty agreement last week. According to state health officials, Blue Bell must pay $175,000 within the first 30 days. The ice cream manufacturer can avoid paying the remaining balance if it complies with additional reporting and food safety requirements outlined in the agreement for 18 months.
Blue Bell must continue to notify DSHS of any presumptive positive test results for Listeria monocytogenes in ice cream, ingredients, food surfaces, machinery and other equipment in its Brenham, TX plant. The company must maintain its “test and hold” procedures for all finished product, meaning ice cream must be found to be free of pathogens before it can be sold to the public. As a licensed frozen dessert manufacturer, the company also must continue to provide state inspectors with full access to the plant to take samples.
Last year the company temporarily shut down its Brenham operation following the discovery of Listeria monocytogenes in certain ice cream products that were linked to several cases of Listeriosis. At the time, Texas health officials outlined requirements and milestones the company had to reach before releasing ice cream into the marketplace. State health inspectors periodically were on site at the Brenham plant to evaluate test results and records, review cleaning procedures and assess training activities.
The company is currently producing, testing and selling ice cream made at the plant.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Blue Bell said it is “pleased with the steps that have been taken in our facilities and confident that we are producing safe products that our customers can enjoy.”