Blue Bell Creameries found listeria contamination last year in some equipment at its Brenham plant and believes it spread in the drainage system of its Oklahoma plant, the company said in a report for the Food and Drug Administration.
The contamination, which was linked to three deaths, led the creamery to shut down operations last year and issue a massive recall. The company started selling ice cream again last August after an investment from Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass.
Several parts of the report posted on the FDA’s website, called a “summary of root cause assessment,” are blacked out.
The report was dated Feb. 12 but has not been previously reported.
At the Brenham facility, Blue Bell said it identified several possible sources of listeria contamination.
“These potential sources varied by production line and included equipment such as (blank) and specific pieces of equipment, such as the (blank) and (blank) machine,” the report said. “
The specific information was withheld to protect trade secrets.
At its facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Blue Bell said it believed listeria was spread through the drainage system and released into the air.
The company said its investigation found that some equipment was being stored in a small room "outside the sanitary production area."
“Equipment was being stored in this room after it was sanitized,” the report said. “This room had a drain in the floor. We learned that it was possible for particles capable of potentially carrying listeria to be emitted from this drain.”
After the discovery at both facilities, Blue Bell said it began enhanced sanitation and testing procedures “to effectively control for listeria.”
The company also said it has implemented a "test and hold" procedure so that its ice cream is proven safe.
Summary of Root Cause Assessment - Brenham, Texas Facility
Summary of Root Cause Assessment - Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Facility