Though Blue Bell has returned to production and distribution once again, that doesn’t mean that all retailers will welcome the ice cream products back so readily. FDA investigators discovered over the course of their examination of Blue Bell that surfaces at the company’s facilities had been testing positive for listeria for years, but Blue Bell never tested the ice cream for the bacteria.
Blue Bell in April voluntarily recalled all products after its treats were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. This includes a dozen employees returning on Monday, and truck drivers, many of whom had been on partly paid furlough since May, will stock the products in grocery stores themselves. The company also received financial backing from Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass to keep the company afloat. Blue Bell is upgrading its plants and hiring a team of microbiologists to review its safety procedures. Nationwide though, that keen-bordering-on-foolish devotion will likely be harder to replicate, and as the fifth-largest ice cream maker in the U.S., Blue Bell can’t afford to ignore the broader American consumer. Blue Bell didn’t reveal where the truck was headed or what it contained, but a Alabama health department official said the only flavors they tested were homemade vanilla and Dutch chocolate.
The company stopped production and started extensive cleaning and decontamination at its plants in Brenham, Alabama and Oklahoma.