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article imageOp-Ed: CBS News report: Blue Bell knew of plant's unsanitary problems

By Karen Graham     Oct 12, 2015 in Food
Brenham - In a CBS News investigative report airing Monday night, former employees of the ice cream company explain how management knew about the unsanitary conditions in the facility, but choose to ignore employee's complaints.
The report by CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod is scheduled to air on CBS Evening News Monday night and again on Tuesday morning on CBS This Morning.
The multi-part report details conditions inside the Brenham plant, including the first on-camera interviews with production line workers in the facility at the time of the recall. Blue Bell's only plant in operation at this time is located in Sylacauga, Alabama, but the company is gearing up to reopen facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.
The beginning of the recalls started in March
On March 15, Digital Journal reported Blue Bell Creameries was linked to an outbreak of Listeriosis that had claimed the lives of three people. At that time, the company pulled the offending ice cream from store shelves.
It wasn't until April 7 that Blue Bell had to recall all products produced at their Broken Arrow plant in Oklahoma. By then additional cases of Listeriosis had been uncovered by the CDC. In a third expanded recall on April 20, Blue Bell recalled all their products manufactured at all their plants.
By this time, the CDC had confirmed they had received positive test results for Listeria monocytogenes in two production facilities. According to the CDC, there were now 10 confirmed cases of Listeriosis in four states, and three deaths linked to Blue Bell.
FDA denies having knowledge of previous violations at Blue Bell
CBS used the freedom of information act to get a look at the finished FDA inspection reports issued in early May, and while the FDA said earlier reports did not show evidence of Listeria contamination, the agency noted numerous violations of food safety protocols. What CBS found in the reports is enough that it should have led to the subsequent investigation into the company.
According to a Digital Journal story on May 8, the reports indicated "the FDA had found the most extensive violations at the Oklahoma facilities, where the FDA released 16 separate positive tests for listeria on equipment and in ice cream from March 2013 through January 2015. The reports also described sanitation failures at the Brenham, Texas and Alabama plants."
So tonight, the whole dirty story will come out and be aired like so much dirty laundry. Three people are gone that didn't need to lose their lives over eating a cup of ice cream. Those listening to the report tonight will hear about oil leaking into the ice cream mixing machinery, melted ice cream on the floors, leaking roofs, condensation from ceilings dripping into the product, and the list goes on.
The thing is, why was this allowed to happen, and get so far along in the first place? In May, the FDA said it is not unusual for companies to not report findings of Listeria or other pathogens, adding that companies only have to report to the agency if they think there is a "reasonable probability" that a food could make people sick. When are consumers going to wake up to what is going on, or do we have to wait for more people to die unnecessarily?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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