Go Gobble Down a Lot of Blue Bell Right Away, Will You? Let Me Know How You Feel.

The ice cream shops and grocery stores of Texas have seemed lonely places, while the world awaited the Second Helping of Blue Bell.
The ice cream shops and grocery stores of Texas have seemed lonely places, while the world awaited the Second Helping of Blue Bell.
Max Burkhalter

Blue Bell ice cream is coming back to Dallas stores! This is so exciting! I don’t remember this much local fervor a couple months ago for the pope’s arrival in America

The TV stations are offering lists of stores on their webpages where you can go get some! Some stores are limiting purchases per customer! I urge you to rush out and get ahead of the crowds! Grab some Blue Bell! Gobble it down! Let me know how you’re feeling!

I’ll be right behind you. Well, not right behind you. About 70 days behind you. But my thoughts will be with you every minute of the way.

In fact, if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay in contact by email, especially if you think you may be experiencing muscle aches, fever, stiff neck, extreme gastrointestinal distress or anything that might fall under the general non-medical rubric of “brain fever.”

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No, no, you’re wrong. I am not raining on the Blue Bell parade. I love Blue Bell. I can’t tell you how much self-restraint it’s taking to keep me from rushing right out there with you and wolfing down a gallon of creamy Blue Bell French vanilla ice cream even before the full 70-day incubation period expires for listeria.

I especially loved the old Blue Bell television advertisements about the happy cows in the hills outside Brenham in Central Texas — a beautiful area that I enjoy visiting and that I always imagined as being occupied not just by happy cows but by happy Germans, as well, if that’s not too ethno-specific.

I was troubled, yes, when I learned that Blue Bell knew there was listeria in its facilities two years before three people died and others were sickened this year in a listeria outbreak traced to Blue Bell ice cream by the Food and Drug Administration

According to the FDA report, in 2013 Blue Bell found listeria on the floor in front of a freezer, on a pallet jack in a kitchen, on a catwalk behind a flavor tank, on the floor in front of another freezer and in a clean-out tub in a kitchen. In 2014 Blue Bell found listeria in 10 more places and in one more place in 2015.

Somewhere along the line the image of happy cows and Germans in Brenham got lost in visions of muck boots slogging through a floor covered with dirty ice cream.
Somewhere along the line the image of happy cows and Germans in Brenham got lost in visions of muck boots slogging through a floor covered with dirty ice cream.
Max Burkhalter

Last October 12 the CBS Evening News broadcast a story in which a Blue Bell employee, Terry Schultz, said machines in the Brenham production plant where he worked sometimes went haywire and spewed ice cream all over the floor. CBS reported: “Schultz said stopping to clean the ice cream would slow down production, so workers left it pooling on the floor, creating an environment where bacteria could flourish. When Schultz complained to supervisors he said nothing was done.”

In April of this year Blue Bell started shutting down plants in a slow-rolling debacle in which 2,800 of its 3,900 workers were eventually sent home. Last July the Dallas Observer quoted Bill Marler, a food safety plaintiff’s attorney, who said, “If [Blue Bell executives] had been more transparent and forthcoming about this instead of trying to control the story and not commenting for so long, things might have been different, they might have saved jobs.” And lives, of course.

Last July Fort Worth billionaire investor Sid Bass extended a “lifeline” to the company in the form of an undisclosed sum of money. Since then, one assumes, the Bass money has paid to get things tidied up, because now the trucks are rolling again. The arrival of the first shipments to Dallas yesterday was the second phase of a new distribution scheme that began last August.

Somewhere between the FDA report, the image of people in their muck boots trudging through a sea of dirty ice cream and the Sid Bass lifeline, I think I sort of lost sight of the happy cows and Germans in Brenham. I know that I believed in the cows and Germans at one point, because I felt I had seen them with my own eyes down there. I even toured the plant once. And, of course, I mean German-Americans.

But I’m happy. I am a happy German-American myself who does dearly love Blue Bell ice cream. That’s the point. I am thrilled that Blue Bell is back in stores in my area.

I have been looking at the list of people who might be especially susceptible, and I don’t want to offend or embarrass you with over-personal information about myself, but if you happen to have any real old people in your household you might be able to serve a couple bowlfuls to, I would be most interested in those outcomes.

Also if there is anyone near you whom we might think of as sort of a “veteran of  the '60s” — a person who might have burned up a few inner gizmos back in the day — be sure to try some on them, too, and then let me know how they fare.

Think of me as right in there celebrating with you, willing to let bygones be bygones but just waiting for an additional 70 days to go by. Hey, it’s more Blue Bell for you! Shoot me an email to let me know how you are, and, actually, first sign of infection, make it a text, would you?


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