Settlement Reached in Blue Bell Listeria Deaths

A settlement of $850,000 has been reached between officials at Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries and Texas’ Department of State Health Services, in connection with three Listeriosis deaths and seven other food poisonings linked to product shipments from Blue Bell’s Broken Arrow, Okla., facility.

Blue Bell began recalling product in February 2015 when the first illnesses were reported. The recall’s scope expanded when Listeria monocytogenes was found in both the Oklahoma and Texas plants. The company’s Sylacauga, Ala., creamery also was cited for failure to perform microbial tests in the production environment and other infractions, though Listeria was not detected.

The settlement, which only affects the Texas facility, requires Blue Bell to retain an independent expert in sanitation or microbiology to institute a controls program for the proper preparation, maintenance and operation of equipment and to alert the state of any positive results from a pathogen monitoring program involving environmental, ingredient and finished-product testing.

The agreement provides for health department oversight for the next 18 months. If ongoing inspections and document reviews of plant procedures and practices determine that Blue Bell is in compliance with the settlement, the state will forgive $675,000 of the penalty and settle for $175,000.