Texas outlines steps to resume production at Blue Bell plant

DALLAS – Texas health officials finalized terms outlining what Blue Bell must do to resume production of its ice cream and get products back on store shelves following the discovery of Listeria in products.

In a press release from the Texas Department of State Health Services, health officials said Blue Bell agreed to the terms for its plant in the east-central part of the state on Thursday. Listeria was found in Blue Bell products in April after consumers were sickened from the outbreak and three deaths in Wichita were linked to the contamination.

“Blue Bell must notify the Texas Department of State Health Services at least two weeks before its intent to start producing ice cream for sale so health officials can conduct a full assessment of the company’s progress and test results,” the release states. “The company must conduct trial production runs of ice cream that will be tested separately by DSHS and the company for Listeria monocytogenes.

“The products must consistently test negative before they can be distributed to the public. A trial run with negative test results must occur for each production line before the line can begin making ice cream for sale.”

In addition to consistent positive tests of the ice cream, health officials will be on hand at Blue Bell’s production facilities to evaluate results and conduct trial runs.

For “at least two years” after resuming normal production, Blue Bell will have to report any assumed positive test of Listeria to the Texas health officials within 24 hours.

The state is also reviewing cleaning and sanitation practices as well as Blue Bell’s new training at the plant. The press release states that an independent expert has been hired by Blue Bell to oversee sanitation experts and find the cause of the Listeria outbreak.