Earlier this week, Blue Bell promised to launch an extensive cleaning process at each of its plants, attempting to combat the public health and public relations disasters that have accompanied 10 people being hospitalized after eating the company's listeria-tainted ice cream.
"We've always worked to make the very highest quality ice cream," Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a statement. "We intend to make a fresh start and that begins with intensive cleaning and enhanced training. This is a paradigm shifting event at Blue Bell and we want to put in place new systems to drive continuous improvement."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, though, Blue Bell's paradigm could have shifted a long time ago.
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The CDC has a database, "PulseNet," that records the genetic fingerprints of pathogens responsible for foodborne illness. The fingerprints of the specific listeria strain that made Blue Bell eaters sick this year match multiple old cases, the CDC says, dating back to 2010, suggesting that Blue Bell products have been infecting customers for as long as five years.
The company plans to implement "design changes" and "highly aggressive cleaning techniques,", and will make test ice cream to establish a baseline for the new cleaning standards. No, the ice cream will not be sold to the public. No, not even at Save A Lot.