May 11, 2015 — Blue Bell never informed the FDA about 17 positive Listeria tests at a facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in the years before a deadly outbreak of food poisoning was linked to their ice cream.
The company found Listeria on floors and surfaces in the facility dating back to 2013, but did not recall ice cream for another two years. The outbreak has been ongoing since 2010 and at least three people have died after eating Blue Bell ice cream.
Last week, the FDA said it “was not aware of these findings” before doing its own inspection this year after the recall, according to the Associated Press.
The FDA said companies frequently do not report Listeria if it is not found in food. They are only required to report contamination if there is a “reasonable probability” that the food will make someone sick.
However, Blue Bell never even checked to see if the Listeria strains were capable of making someone sick. According to FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher:
“Although Blue Bell’s testing did identify Listeria, the company did not further identify the strain to determine if it was pathogenic.”
Instead, Blue Bell company spokesman Joe Robertson said their standard procedure after a positive Listeria test was to clean, sanitize, and re-test the area. He said, “In hindsight, we can see now that wasn’t always adequate.”
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