I’m at Bluebell today with friends and colleagues Toby Burk and Charles Parnell. Behind us the Bluebell factory is completely shut down as they undergo a thorough cleaning. These good people are taking a big hit in order to ensure maximum safety for what I consider to be the best retail ice cream I’ve ever had.

  
Bluebell Ice Cream began in the early 1900s in the small Texas town of Brenham, and has grown to be the third-largest ice cream in the U. S. This German settlement of Brenham has about a dozen Lutheran churches in the same general area, including Christ Lutheran, where I was earlier today, just a mile from Bluebell HQ. In its 108-year history, there have never been any contaminations or recalls, so this current situation comes as a shock to everyone.  

Listeria is tricky. This bacteria is killed by cooking and pasteurization, but contamination can hapeont through packaging. It is uncommon in ice cream. In fact, wisteria cannot grow in freezing temperatures. It can, however, be brought in by other products such as nuts. 

There have been many recalls this year. Sabra Dipping Company recalled 30,000 containers of hummus. Amy’s Kitchen recalled 74,000 cases of pizza and other things. Kraft recalled 242,000 boxes of macaroni and cheese. Trader Joe’s recalled walnuts due to salmonella detections. Whole Foods recalled garlic powder. 

All licensed manufacturers of frozen desserts in Texas are inspected every two months. Ice cream plants are inspected for general sanitation, various bacteria and particularly for coloform, another bacteria. Ice cream is considered low risk for listeria. Blue Bell’s plants in Brenham are regularly inspected. They have had a good inspection record. There were no penalties or warnings from the state. Blue Bell has followed industry standards in testing for bacteria. A CDC (Center for Disease Control) report shows Bluebell  no awareness of the outbreak. Neither did the health departments. 

  

To be completely safe, Bluebell voluntarily recalled all products. The plant is shut down and is being cleaned, then inspected. Going forward, Bluebell will test every batch for Listeria, something I believe no other ice cream company does. 

They’ll be back!