April 10, 2015 — Just days after Blue Bell ice cream was linked to an outbreak of Listeria, a state inspection of a facility in Oklahoma found no violations.
Listeria was first traced to Blue Bell by health officials in South Carolina in February. After illnesses were reported in Kansas, Blue Bell issued its first recall on March 13.
However, when the Oklahoma facility was inspected on March 18, an inspector wrote “No Violations Observed!” and “Keep it up!” according to a one-page report provided to the Associated Press.
Health officials in Oklahoma said they had no reason to check for Listeria on March 18 because “no problems” were detected. The facility also had no history of issues linked to Listeria. They apparently did not learn about the connection until March 22. Blue Bell has temporarily closed the plant while they investigate the source of the outbreak.
Lucy Severs, food safety manager for the Department of Agriculture in Washington, told CBS News:
“You may just be working to keep your plant really, really clean, but you also need to work to keep it in good repair because that organism can slide into a crack on the door, or get into the crack where the wall and floor meet.”
Blue Bell Creamery is based in Brenham, Texas, and has never issued a recall in its 108-year history in the state until now. Since last month, more than 25 products have been recalled.
Tainted ice cream products have sickened at least 8 people, including five in Kansas and three in Texas. All of the victims were hospital patients. Three victims died at one hospital in Wichita, Kansas, but it is not clear that their deaths were caused by Listeria.
Listeria infections are most serious for people with vulnerable immune systems, as you would expect in a hospital. Pregnant women, children, and older adults are also at risk of life-threatening complications.
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