UPDATED: Alabama Blue Bell Plant Gets State Approval for Production
Rejoice Blue Bell Ice Cream lovers. The company got the OK to once again begin production at its Alabama plant.
Grocery store freezers have been empty of the product since April when the company issued a massive recall following three deaths that were linked to listeria found in Blue Bell ice cream.
The Associated Press reports that the plant meets all state public health standards and can resume production. There is still no word on when production will begin at Blue Bell's Texas and Oklahoma plants. Without a finalized distribution plan, however, it may take some time before those freezers can once again be filled with ice cream.
Update: Blue Bell this week announced that it has started shipping ice cream made that the plant, but it is still unknown which retailers will be restocking their shelves and when.
For a company that claims it never issued a recall in more than 100 years of business, Blue Bell executives had their work cut out for them.
Ten cases of listeria infection were linked to the company and three people died as a result. Listeria is a bacteria that is especially dangerous for those with compromised immune systems, children, the elderly, and pregnant women. The three Kansas residents that died were in a hospital for unrelated medical problems when they were served small cups of ice cream from the hospitals cafeteria.
Blue Bell began quietly withdrawing products that were primarily found in intuitional settings, like hospitals. The company was later criticized for only announcing a withdrawal rather than a recall, which requires more notice to consumers. Grocery stores began issuing their own recalls and stopped selling Blue Bell products made in plants that were initially linked to the outbreak. Some pulled all Blue Bell products regardless of where they were made.
Blue Bell finally recalled all of its products in April.
Exacerbating Blue Bell's woes, a public records request discovered inspection reports dating back to 2013 showing the plants had sanitation problems and evidence of listeria on surfaces like pallets and floors. The problems were never fixed.
The family-owned company began feeling the financial effects and laid-off a third of its workforce. To stay afloat, the company got a loan from billionaire investor Sid Bass who, in return, will now own a portion of the company.