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

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)
We have initiated a voluntary recall of all our ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets, and ice cream sandwiches. https://t.co/JUOXA4JT0e
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.
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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
More related news:
US Justice Department launches criminal investigation of Blue Bell
Food-borne bacteria: The 6 riskiest foods to eat
Whole Foods issues recall for chicken salad, pasta salad over listeria bacteria

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