Blue Bell finds areas in ice cream plant where listeria may be present

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Listeria Discovered Again in Blue Bell's Creameries

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, which stopped production and distribution of ice cream to 25 states in April after the discovery of listeria, said on Friday that it has identified areas in plants where the bacteria may be present.

The company did not specify in a statement in which of its three facilities listeria may be present but said that none was found in any of its ice cream.

SEE ALSO: Ice cream maker Blue Bell reports listeria found again in facility

"In our facilities, we have identified suspected areas where bacteria may be present but in no case have we confirmed listeria monocytogenes," the company said in a statement.

"The entire purpose of our enhanced environmental testing is to identify locations where bacteria could be found in our facility in order to properly clean and sanitize the surface and prevent contamination," the company added. It said that testing was taking place at all three plants.

Blue Bell, ranked the No. 1 ice cream brand in the country in 2014, recalled all products last spring after 10 reported cases of listeria in four states were linked to Blue Bell frozen treats. Three of the people sickened, all hospital patients in Kansas, later died.

See earlier incidents of listeria in Blue Bell products:

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Blue Bell, Jeni's Splendid Listeria
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Blue Bell finds areas in ice cream plant where listeria may be present
OVERLAND PARK, KS - APRIL 21: A Blue Bell Ice Cream truck is seen outside a Wal-Mart store after Blue Bell Creameries recalls all products following a Listeria contamination on April 21, 2015 in Overland Park, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OVERLAND PARK, KS - APRIL 21: Shelves are bare and signs are posted where Blue Bell products were displayed in a grocery store on April 21, 2015 in Overland Park, Kansas. Blue Bell Creameries recalled all products following a Listeria contamination. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
A sign in the window at a Jeni's Spendid Ice Creams shop tells customers the store is closed Friday, April 24, 2015, in Atlanta. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has issued a widespread voluntary recall on all flavors of its Ohio-made ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and ice cream sandwiches and closed all of its retail scoop shops because of possible contamination with potentially fatal Listeria monocytogenes.(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
We have initiated a voluntary recall of all our ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches. https://t.co/JUOXA4JT0e
A sign on a window of the door on the left at a Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams states that the store is closed Friday, April 24, 2015, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Major recalls from two well-known ice cream companies due to the discovery of listeria bacteria raise questions about how the pathogen could have contaminated multiple ice cream manufacturing plants and whether the discoveries are related. Blue Bell Creameries of Texas and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams of Ohio, extremely popular brands in their home states took all their products off shelves this week. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
FILE - In this April 24, 2015 file photo, a sign on a window at a Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams states that the store is closed, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. CEO John Lowe said in a Tuesday, April 28, 2015 statement that Jeni's is destroying more than 265 tons of ice cream after listeria was found in the production facility and in products last week. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Blue Bell ice cream stands for sale on a grocery store shelf in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Blue Bell delivery trucks are parked at the creamery's location in Kansas City, Kan., Friday, April 10, 2015. Days after a foodborne illness was linked to Blue Bell ice cream products, a state inspection of an Oklahoma plant later tied to the infection praised the facility for having no violations and doing a "great job," according to a copy of the inspection report. Tainted Blue Bell ice cream products have sickened eight people — five in Kansas and three in Texas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Five people in Kansas have become ill, three have died, as part of a potential listeriosis outbreak, possibly connected to eating Blue Bell Creameries ice cream at a hospital, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
This photo shows a container of Blue Bell ice cream Friday, March 13, 2015, in Dallas. The deaths of three people who developed a foodborne illness linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products has prompted the Texas icon’s first product recall in its 108-year history. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)
This photo shows a container of Blue Bell ice cream Friday, March 13, 2015, in Dallas. The deaths of three people who developed a foodborne illness linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products has prompted the Texas icon’s first product recall in its 108-year history. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)
This photo shows a container of Blue Bell ice cream Friday, March 13, 2015, in Dallas. The deaths of three people who developed a foodborne illness linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products has prompted the Texas icon’s first product recall in its 108-year history. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)
Graphic shows the number of cases of listeria by state.; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
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The disease, caused by eating food contaminated with listeria, primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Blue Bell suspended production at its plants in Brenham, Texas; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Sylacauga, Alabama last spring and said it conducted a major overhaul of production at all three plants.

Blue Bell laid off or furloughed hundreds of employees as a result of the shutdown.

Starting in November, the company began a phased process of returning its ice cream to store shelves. The company said the next phase of the process, in which ice cream will be distributed in Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Virginia, will proceed as planned.

More on the listeria contamination that caused Blue Bell to recall all their products earlier this year:

Blue Bell Recalls All Products
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