Popular ice cream maker, Blue Bell, is now asking federal regulators to reconsider its requirement that the company employ precautions following the listeria contamination outbreak from last year. The Houston, TX-based company says that these precautions are costly and they would like to shift to a different approach that will allow them to continue conducting a safe and regulated business but also save money.
Of course, this is no simple matter. The listeria outbreak—which began in April of 2015—resulted in three deaths but regulators required that Blue Bell destroy any and all products that could have showed an possible listeria indications. More importantly, the company was required to destroy all products regardless of whether they had tested positive for the bacteria. This, the company argues, resulted in the unnecessary destruction of several hundred thousand cartons of ice cream over the past year.
And that translates to several million dollars of revenue lost. Revenue lost for a company that is already struggling from the original sweeping recall that actually forced shutdown of all operations, cut sales in half, and eventually led to massive layoffs across the company. You may recall, for example, that Blue Bell Ice Cream had shut down production at its Broken Arrow plant in 2015 which resulted in the furlough of approximately 200 factory workers.
But Blue Bell is not trying to get out of testing or compliance. Instead, the company would like to shift from the precaution to a testing approach that would call only for the destruction of products that definitely test positive for contamination. According to Blue Bell’s attorney, Joseph Levitt, the company is only asking to have the opportunity to “transition to the industry norm,” with similar testing and compliance regulations.
New records show that the privately-held ice cream company has been working for several months with an outside laboratory to develop a new procedure that would both meet the US Food and Drug Administration’s stringent requirements—by preventing future outbreaks—but also help the company to get a better hold on its market share to ensure financial stability down the road.