FDA wasn’t told of listeria in Blue Bell plant before deadly outbreak linked to ice cream
From the Brandon Sun
Federal health officials said Friday that they were never told of repeated findings of listeria at a Blue Bell Creameries facility before an outbreak linked to the ice cream turned deadly.
Results of a Food and Drug Administration investigation released this week showed the company had found 17 positive samples of listeria on surfaces and floors in its Oklahoma plant dating back to 2013. The FDA said Friday that it “was not aware of these findings” before doing its own inspection this year in response to the outbreak.
The FDA said it isn’t uncommon for companies not to report findings of listeria or other pathogens. Companies are only required to report to the FDA if they find a “reasonable probability” that a food could make people sick. Blue Bell’s listeria samples were found on surfaces and not in the ice cream, and the company hadn’t tested to see if the listeria strains found were among those that are the most dangerous.
The FDA said it is common for a company to take corrective action — sanitizing and cleaning — without doing further testing if the pathogen isn’t found in the food itself.
“Although Blue Bell’s testing did identify listeria, the company did not further identify the strain to determine if it was pathogenic,” FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher said.
The company eventually recalled all of its products after tests showed listeria in its ice cream last month.