Although no listeria has been found in Blue Bell products, false impressions about the bacteria at Blue Bell has hurt the little creamery based in Brenham, Texas.
Headlines have added to the damage done – “Listeria Found Again at Blue Bell Creameries,” and “Breaking Blue Bell Announces New Traces of Listeria Found.”
Moreover, headlines, lead paragraphs, and even second paragraphs, often the only things read by readers, do not always tell the entire story.
Many in the public have quickly jumped to a conclusion that Blue Bell products are not safe for them to consume.
There has been reporting that the “actual listeria is back” in the lead paragraph of an article with a title that says, “Blue Bell has once again found listeria in the Brenham Plant.” Obscured within the majority of reporting about negative things associated with Blue Bell, is that the listeria was found at the plant, although it does say “traces of listeria.”
The impression left with many is bottom line, Blue Bell products are just not safe. Taking just a small portion of the comments on Facebook:
Vickie Lloyd wrote, “Now I may have listeria. I hope the liquor that I mixed with that good ole Blue Bell killed it off.”
Even though the headline and lead paragraph of the article Lloyd shared clearly says that the listeria was found at “areas in plants,” Lloyd had this reaction.
Another Facebook user posted, “I’m glad I haven’t bought any. I was waiting to see if this would happen and it has. I hope no one ends up Sick this time, and I sell ice cream but we have blue bunny not blue bell.”
Another reaction on Facebook, “Oh great! Here we go again. My hunny just came home with some Blue Bell ice cream and WalMart told him he can return the ice cream! We are not taking any chances! …”
Wendy Stevens posted, “My roommate and I just got blue bell about an hour ago… great! (frown face)”
One person who posted on Facebook even brought the presidential race into the issue saying, “A half a gallon of bluebell ice cream last night it appears I may die soon. But just in case I do die I’ll vote for Trump there is no other option.”
Some readers have even chastised media outlets for their headlines. Debra Godber wrote on Facebook, “Shame on WGNO for the headline on this story! Read the entire article! Blue Bell has handled their crisis with dignity and respect for their consumers. Don’t fall for hysterical headlines just so a media outlet can get attention! Desperate move! Pathetic!,” she wrote.
The actual headline read, “Listeria found at a Blue Bell plant… again.”
Others said, “So what you posted wasn’t entirely wrong, except that they are testing every batch before it leaves the plant, as well as that they have NOT found any traces of listeria.”
The article, which has been updated, states that “Blue Bell emphasized that it has found no confirmed cases of listeria” and links to Blue Bell’s January 8 press release. The headline now reads, “Blue Bell: Better testing finds potential listeria presence.”
On January 7, the Blue Bell company updated the public about the progress the creamery has made with enhanced procedures in their production facilities.
The next day on January 8, the company issued a statement that said, “Unfortunately in some media reports this information has been misstated.”
Breitbart Texas published an article the next morning reporting that Blue Bell said the media had falsely reported information the company voluntarily publicized as a public information service.
As a public service update, the company issued a press release on January 7 that it had identified locations where suspected listeria species may be present in their facility but said the bacteria is “commonly found in the natural environment.” It explained, “no manufacturer can ever assume it can be entirely eradicated.”
The January 7 statement clearly said it was “pleased that our enhanced environmental and product testing procedures are working.” It also assured that, “Since our plants reopened, we have tested and will continue to test every batch of ice cream produced, and no products produced have tested positive for Listeria.”
The company’s press release of January 8 titled Clarification regarding enhanced testing by Blue Bell Creameries stated, “In our facilities, we have identified suspected areas where bacteria may be present but in no case have we confirmed Listeria monocytogenes.” (emphasis Blue Bell’s own)
On January 11, the company updated their January 7 release on its website to include the January 8 press release that said media reports had “misstated” information. Instead of having the clarification appear under a separate press release on a separate link on their website, the company seems to clearly want the media to understand and report that their products have not been contaminated and the public is not in jeopardy.
The Texas based company stated in their first public service announcement that it will continue to extensively clean and sanitize the areas where the listeria was found, and will make additional enhancements to the facility and procedures based on the environmental test results.
The January 8 public service announcement emphatically states, “We have tested and will continue to test every batch of ice cream produced. No products produced have tested positive. No products are shipped to stores until tests confirm they are safe. We will continue to work closely with our regulatory agencies, as we have throughout this process.”
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2