On Monday, ice cream giant Blue Bell expanded a previous recall to include every single one of its products after another of its plants tested positive for a listeria contamination. This is Blue Bell's third wave of recalls in a little over a month, all linked to listeria threats. The latest recall will delay the company's frozen snack products from returning to shelves anytime soon — so, when exactly will Blue Bell's ice cream be back?
In a statement given to KHOU, Blue Bell's spokesman Joe Robertson tried to give an idea of when the company's ice cream would be back in stores, but was unable to give a definitive answer.
The timeline as to when products will return to the shelves, we don't have that right now, but it will take at least two or three weeks.
This might be because the company has enforced new safety measures that will take time to perform. Robertson explained:
We're working with the FDA and local health departments to determine how the listeria was introduced to our facilities. We have also assembled a team of experts, microbiologists, and they're increasing our testing, and we'll get to the bottom of this.
On its website, Blue Bell explains that its new testing procedure, called the "test and hold" system, will test all products and hold them for release until the results come back clean. The system will expand certain processes, such as daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment, increase the surface area to be swabbed and tested, and sending daily samples to a microbiology lab.
The company writes:
Blue Bell expects to resume distribution soon on a limited basis once it is confident in the safety of its product.
Before March, Blue Bell had never issued a recall in its 108 years of existence, so for its first recall, which was issued on March 13, to turn into a series of recalls ending with every single product being pulled — well, it's pretty dramatic.
Not all is lost. Many, many companies issue recalls — and some do it so regularly nobody even bats an eye anymore when they announce the news. Dirk Gibson, an associate professor of mass communication at the University of New Mexico and recall expert, told Health.com there are roughly 2,000 recalls in the U.S. every year, and last year, there were 94 food recalls alone.
According to an Inc. article from 2010, there are ways for companies to survive product recalls, even ones as massive and headline-grabbing as Blue Bell's. The five tips author Peter Vanden Bos offers are: plan ahead, investigate the safety issue and report it, get the message out, trace the product, and protect yourself from lawsuits.
While Blue Bell probably couldn't carry out step one, the company has followed steps two, three, and four very fastidiously. As for protecting itself from litigation, the article states that as long as the company is conducting its recall in a transparent manner and treats its customers as a priority, then it will minimize the possibility of a lawsuit.
As of now, no lawsuits have been filed against Blue Bell. Given that this is the company's first series of recalls in more than 100 years, it has every chance of bouncing back.