Much like they did in Texas and Oklahoma, Blue Bell Creameries has entered into a voluntary agreement with the Alabama Department of Public Health that outlines the steps they will take in order to resume production at their facility in Sylacauga and get products back on store shelves.
"The actions include rigorous facility cleaning and sanitizing, revised testing protocols, revised production policies and procedures designed to prevent future contamination, and upgraded employee training initiatives. Once the company is ready to resume production, the voluntary agreement also calls for a trial production period before ice cream is distributed to consumers," the company said in a statement released Monday.
The 108-year-old company's production plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama have been closed since Blue Bell issued a full recall in April. The company's ice cream has been linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.
Blue Bell said they hope the voluntary agreement will reassure customers that when the company is able to put products back in grocery store freezers that they'll be safe to eat.
“We are committed to making these changes so that we meet the high standards and expectations of our customers and our regulatory agencies. Blue Bell will also continue to work cooperatively and transparently with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO.
The agreement signed Monday includes provisions specific to addressing listeria, the company said, including:
- Conducting root cause analyses to identify its potential or actual sources;
- Retaining an independent microbiology expert to help establish and review controls to prevent the future introduction of Listeria;
- Notifying the Alabama Department of Public Health promptly of any presumptive positive test result for Listeria monocytogenes found in ingredients or finished product samples, and providing the state agencies full access to all testing;
- Ensuring that the company’s Pathogen Monitoring Program (PMP) for Listeria in the plant environment outlines how the company will respond to presumptive positive tests for Listeria species; and,
- Instituting a “test and hold” program to assure that products are safe before they are shipped or sold.
"We greatly appreciate the tremendous public support we have received, and we look forward to working with our regulatory agencies and returning to making ice cream as soon as possible," Kruse said.
After signing the agreements in Texas and Oklahoma on May 14, the company announced they were laying off 37 percent of their workforce, roughly 1,400 people, including about 30 in Alabama.
On the Web:
The Alabama agreement can be obtained from: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Texas news release and agreement can be found here: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/releases/20150514.aspx
The Oklahoma agreement can be obtained from: Blayne.email@example.com