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2015-04-09

H-E-B withdraws all Blue Bell products

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Recalled Blue Bell ice cream cups produced at the Broken Arrow plant in Oklahoma can be identified by the letters "O," "P," "Q," "R," "S," and "T" following the "code date" printed on the bottom of the product package.


Executives with the H-E-B grocery chain announced that all existing Blue Bell ice cream products would be withdrawn from the grocery chain's freezers due to food safety concerns. The announcement, which was billed as a "precautionary measure," came on Saturday, April 4.
"Working with Blue Bell, we will replenish our shelves with new product as soon as feasible," said an H-E-B spokesman.
Meanwhile, Blue Bell - Texas's popular Brenham-based creamery - had earlier voluntarily recalled some of its products while the company continued to work with the United States Food and Drug Administration.
H-E-B, along with Sam's Club and Kroger, withdrew the ice cream products after Blue Bell executives announced on Friday, April 3, that the company had suspended operations at a manufacturing plant in Oklahoma.
Consumption of products produced at that site were implicated in five cases of Listeria in adults in Kansas. Subsequently, three of the infected patients died.
As reported, the five people infected with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes were all patients at the same hospital; however, they were being treated for unrelated problems prior to developing listeriosis. Additionally, four of the five patients who were diagnosed with Listeria had consumed milkshakes made with a single-serving Blue Bell brand ice cream product called "Scoops" while in the hospital.
These apparently contaminated Blue Bell brand ice cream products were produced at the Brenham facility.
Subsequently, however, Listeria monocytogenes was also found in single-servings of Blue Bell brand 3-ounce chocolate ice cream cups that had been distributed to institutional and other food service facilities. These ice cream cups, recalled on March 23, had been produced in the Broken Arrow plant.
In a press release posted the evening of April 3, a representative of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia, issued the following statement: "Based on the information CDC has at this time, we recommend that consumers do not eat any Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility and that retailers and institutions do not sell or serve them."
The advice is especially important for people at higher risk for listeriosis, which includes pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older and people with weakened immune systems.
Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility can be identified by checking for letters "O," "P," "Q," "R," "S," and "T" following the "code date" printed on the bottom of the product package.
Addressing his company's ongoing problems, Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president, said in a statement, "We are devastated and know that Blue Bell has to be and can be better than this. Quality and safety have always been our top priorities. We are deeply saddened and concerned for all those who have been affected."
Kruse emphasized that the current recall does not include Blue Bell ice cream half gallons, pints, quarts, three gallons or other 3-ounce cups.
This has been the first product recall in the 108-year history of Blue Bell Creameries, according to the company.
"We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this step may cause, but we believe it is the right thing to do for you, our consumers, who for generations have relied on Blue Bell for the freshest and finest ice cream," the company statement continued.
Consumers with questions are urged to call Blue Bell Creamery from 8 am to 5 pm CT, Monday through Friday, at 979-836-7977.
Customers may also return Blue Bell products to H-E-B stores for a full refund. Questions can be addressed to H-E-B Customer Relations at 1-855-432-4438 between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.