Some of the largest retailers in the country have decided to pull from their shelves Blue Bell Ice Cream made at an Oklahoma production plant that the company has temporarily closed.
The Brenham-based dairy company last month issued a recall after ice cream contaminated with listeriosis was linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital.
The food borne illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Blue Bell announced Friday that it had stopped all production at the Broken Arrow plant.
Company spokesman Gene Grabowski confirmed Monday that the number of large retailers pulling the ice cream has grown.
“The retailers are doing this out of an abundance of caution to protect their consumers, and we appreciate that and understand it, but they’re doing that on their own,” Grabowski said.
Albertsons, Tom Thumb and Kroger have all pulled any Blue Bell products made in Oklahoma.
“If they’re uncomfortable with any Blue Bell product, bring it back to Kroger and we’ll certainly refund their money,” said Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston.
Walmart, H-E-B and Central Market have gone a step further, removing all Blue Bell products from the shelves.
“Products that they are withholding from the shelves have not been recalled,” said Grabowski. “We’re very sorry for any concern that we’ve raised.”
Blue Bell said the Oklahoma plant was shut down “in an abundance of caution.”
“That was a voluntary step taken to make sure that consumers were reassured the company is doing everything possible to find the cause of the contamination and also to make sure that that plant is thoroughly cleaned before it goes back into production,” said Grabowski.
Blue Bell expects the Broken Arrow plant will be shut down for a week to 10 days.
On Monday, Kroger issued the following statement:
Kroger has issued a Class 1 Recall on Blue Bell products produced at its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma facility. The recalled products have been removed from our shelves. Customers who have purchased a recalled product will automatically be notified by receipt tape, phone message and signage in our stores. We encourage customers to immediately discard a recalled product or return it to our stores for a full refund. Our stores will continue to sell Blue Bell products that have been produced at other plants and approved safe for consumption. Additional inquiries should be directed to Blue Bell's customer service line.
Also Monday, Tom Thumb released this statement:
Immediately upon notification of the Centers for Disease Control recommendation, issued Friday, April 3, that consumers and retailers should not consume or sell any Blue Bell products produced out of the Broken Arrow, OK facility, Albertsons and Tom Thumb pulled all Blue Bell products from its shelves as a precaution. Blue Bell representatives have been in all North Texas and Albertsons and Tom Thumb stores since Saturday to ensure that all products made in the Oklahoma facility have been removed. The unaffected Blue Bell products, made in the Brenham plant, have been returned to the freezer cases to be available for our customers. The safety and well-being of our customers is, and always has been, our number one priority.