> Yet Again, Blue Bell is Pushing Its Luck with Listeria - The Food Safety Company Yet Again, Blue Bell is Pushing Its Luck with Listeria - The Food Safety Company
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    Tuesday, 3 January 2017

    Yet Again, Blue Bell is Pushing Its Luck with Listeria

    We’ve spoken before about Blue Bell – the dairy producer which, in 2015, killed three people and sickened several others when a listeria outbreak spread through its ice cream products. After that disaster, the Food and Drug Administration (a branch of the US Federal government) ordered the company to adopt more stringent food safety measures to ensure that such a catastrophe never repeats itself.

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    However, now it seems that Blue Bell is fed up with having to check its products so rigorously. According to the Houston Chronicle, which obtained the scoop through an FOI request, the company says the price of inspections is just too high; and it’s seeking FDA approval to allow it to test its products at levels which are considered the ‘industry norm.’

    But whether the company can be trusted to fulfil its obligations to its customers is very dubious indeed. For example, the potential for listeria monocytogenes to be lurking in cool, damp areas of the Blue Bell ice cream factory – in which such bacteria thrive – is certainly a viable one, even today.

    Speaking to reporters yesterday, food safety lawyer Bill Marler claimed: ‘It’s a surprising move, given what Blue Bell has been through and the fact that they are still under criminal investigation, to even consider ratcheting back any portion of their testing protocol, even if it arguably made some sense.’

    The motivation behind the plans is primarily financial. As the Houston Press notes, since the recall in 2015, ‘Blue Bell reportedly has lost thousands of cartons of ice cream and millions of dollars doing this kind of testing.’

    Nevertheless, he still believes that requesting more relaxed sanctions from the FDA is ‘not smart.’

    ‘It's not that expensive to do be doing this testing,’ he said, ‘compared to facing criminal sanctions, or jail time, or worse, another outbreak or another recall that causes them to be publicly embarrassed and to lose more business.’

    For now, we can only hope that the FDA will hold strong on its commitment to protecting public health; as opposed to letting Blue Bell off with an easy ride into 2017. Otherwise, we’ll only be wondering what kind of threat is really being posed to consumers of dairy products in the foreseeable future. 

    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.
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