May 11, 2015 — The FDA was not aware of Listeria contamination at a Blue Bell ice cream plant in Oklahoma despite 17 positive tests since 2013, according to the Associated Press.
The FDA said it is not uncommon for companies not to report Listeria contamination unless it is found in food. Listeria was found only on surfaces and floors at one Blue Bell Creameries facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Companies are only required to report Listeria contamination if they believe there is a “reasonable probability” that eating the food could make a person sick.
However, Blue Bell never even tested the strains of Listeria to see if they were capable of causing illness. FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher said:
“Although Blue Bell’s testing did identify Listeria, the company did not further identify the strain to determine if it was pathogenic.”
A spokesman for Blue Bell, Joe Robertson, said the company would clean, sanitize, and re-test the are after each positive Listeria test. “In hindsight, we can see now that wasn’t always adequate,” he said.
Blue Bell did not recall their ice cream products until March 2015. Health officials now believe that an outbreak of Listeria has been ongoing since 2010. At least 10 infections have been confirmed in four states, including three hospital patients in Kansas who died after eating milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream.
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