State health inspectors found crickets in a storage room, dirty mop buckets and mildew at Blue Bell’s sprawling plant in Brenham, according to records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates.
The violations were among dozens noted by the Texas Department of State Health Services over the past four years, but none led to formal warning letters or fines for the creamery.
NBC 5 obtained inspection reports from January 1, 2011 to April 15, 2015 under the Texas open records law.
Blue Bell’s Brenham facility and a separate Oklahoma plant have been under scrutiny since Listeria found in ice cream contributed to several deaths in Kansas and sickened people in Texas and other states.
Just last week, Blue Bell recalled all its products nationwide after two more tests for Listeria were positive at the Brenham facility.
The reports show inspectors monitored the plant regularly and Blue Bell says any issues were promptly corrected.
Many of the inspections turned up no violations, but others raised issues about cleanliness and food safety.
On Feb. 2, 2012, inspectors wrote: “Continue to monitor raw milk storage levels – time storage limits.”
Later that year, crickets were discovered at the plant.
“Crickets shall be removed, eradicated from milk storage rooms & evaporator room,” an inspector wrote on Sept. 18, 2012.
The following year, mildew was an issue.
“Find source of mildew in 40-degree room,” an inspector noted on Nov. 20, 2013.
Other inspections found concerns about food freshness.
“Rainbow fruit freeze is now 120 hours old! Use ASAP,” according to an inspection on Dec. 18, 2013. The notation apparently refers to a frozen snack made by Blue Bell called “Rainbow Freeze Bar.”
Other inspections faulted the factory for rust on doorways, not closing lids on various food containers and not having towels available at handwash sinks.
The company is in the process of deep cleaning its plants and re-training employees.
“Blue Bell has a long history of regular state health inspections,” the company said in a statement. “Whenever inspections raised any issues at all, we have always taken prompt action to address and correct them. Blue Bell takes cleanliness in our production facilities very seriously and our top priority is always the quality and safety of our product for our customers.”