Blue Bell announced April 3 that it was suspending operations at its Broken Arrow OK ice cream production facility after officials linked it to listeria, a foodborne illness that contributed to the deaths of three people.
Supermarkets H-E-B, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Randall’s have voluntarily pulled Blue Bell’s products. The Houston Astros major league baseball team also announced Blue Bell won’t be served April 6, the season’s opening day, at Minute Maid Park. Reid Ryan, Astros president, termed it a “precautionary measure.”
H-E-B plans to replenish shelves with new products as soon as possible and said customers can return Blue Bell products to H-E-B stores for a full refund. Randall’s voluntarily pulled all its Blue Bell products April 3, but a spokeswoman said the product would be returned to store freezers as soon as it was determined the ice cream did not come from Oklahoma.
Blue Bell and health officials said a contaminated 3-ounce cup of ice cream was traced to a plant in Broken Arrow in March. Ten products recalled earlier in March were from a production line at a plant in Brenham TX, where the company is headquartered.
The recall occurred after five hospital patients in Wichita KS became ill with listeria. According to officials, at least four drank milkshakes made using Blue Bell ice cream, and three of the patients died.
Blue Bell issued this statement:
“The Broken Arrow operations will be suspended so that our team of expert consultants can conduct a careful and complete examination to determine the exact cause of the contamination. We have notified the US Food and Drug Administration of our action and we remain committed to being transparent with that federal agency. Once our investigation is complete and we have made all necessary improvements, it will return to operation. Our other plants continue to operate and supply our products to retail stores and institutional customers.”
To tell if a Blue Bell product came from the Oklahoma facility, the code on the bottom of the carton ends in the letters S, P, O, Q, R, or T.
Consumers with questions may call 979-836-7977, Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm CDT.