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Texas Health Dept. Lays Down Stringent Guidelines For Blue Bell

Blue Bell website

The state health department has stepped in with a set of safety milestones that Blue Bell Creameries must accomplish before the company may reintroduce its ice cream products in stores.

According to Thursday’s statement from the Texas Dept. of State Health Services, Blue Bell signed off on the agreement that outlines steps the ice cream maker must take to get back to the business of selling ice cream to customers.

The company has already taken some steps voluntarily, recalling all its products and initiating cleaning procedures on factory equipment, food surfaces, machines, and ingredients.

It has hired an independent expert to oversee sanitation operations and started a training program for employees.

Going forward, Blue Bell must train all employees on sanitation procedures and develop and implement new or revised policies and protocols to prevent listeria contamination in future.

In addition, Blue Bell must notify the Texas Dept. of State Health Services at least two weeks before it plans to start producing ice cream for sale.

Health officials will assess the company’s progress and test results at that time. The company will be required to conduct trial production runs that will be tested separately by state health officials and by Blue Bell for each production line before it can be approved to produce ice cream for the public.

The state will then regularly inspect factories and monitor test results. Once all trial run results are negative for listeria, Blue Bell can resume production —but only on a “test and hold” basis — for one year. That means each run of products made at the Brenham plant must have negative test results before they can be shipped to stores.

For at least two years after that, Blue Bell must report any presumptive positive test results for listeria to the state within 24 hours.

Texas is also working with state and national experts to identify changes in procedures that may be needed to strengthen regulations for ice cream products at other plants that produce frozen desserts.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.