More than 200 true Blue Bell ice cream aficionados gathered for a prayer vigil in Southeast Texas to show their unwavering support for the 108 year old company. Blue Bell Creameries has been sidelined by a series of Listeria bacteria discoveries in two of their plants between January to March.
On Saturday, April 25, devotees of the brand showed up in the Blue Bell Creameries hometown of Brenham to show their prayerful support for the company according to Fox 4 Dallas. In an hour-long vigil held in the town square, pastors prayed for those who were stricken with the sometimes fatal micro-organism. They also prayed, confident that the company will discover how its products became contaminated with the Listeria bacteria.
Fox 4 Dallas spoke to the locals who participated in the vigil. They looked forward to things getting back to normal for the beloved ice cream maker.
“It has grieved our hearts that our beloved product … could ever become a source of harm to anyone,” said Phil Fenton, a pastor with St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The Rev. Randy Wells, with St. John’s African-Methodist Episcopal Church, told the crowd, many of whom wore shirts and paper hats with Blue Bell’s name on it, that the ice cream maker would come back “stronger than ever.”
Blue Bell officials have said the company doesn’t expect to lay off any of its 3,800 employees at its plants in Brenham, Oklahoma and Alabama. All of the plants will remain closed through at least next week while the company conducts intensive cleaning and employee training, also according to Fox 4.
Howard Kruse, the longtime ex-CEO of Blue Bell, told Saturday’s crowd that the company is working tirelessly to pinpoint the source of the listeria. “I can assure you that this situation, whatever is the problem, will be solved,” he said.
At the vigil, one Blue Bell devotee wore a T-shirt that read “I Get Cranky Without My Blue Bell.” Another called the ice cream maker a “part of our community, so that when they’re hurt, we’re hurt.”
Breitbart Texas has been following the series of recalls. The original episode was issued by the company after three people died after eating product manufactured on a single machine in Brenham. That machine and those products were permanently discontinued. Then, a second product recall was prompted over single-serving cups of 3 oz chocolate, strawberry and vanilla cups that were sold to educational and other institutional facilities, not retail outlets, according to Breitbart Texas. Those products were manufactured in the company’s Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, facility.
Most recently, all Blue Bell ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks have been voluntarily recalled from store freezer shelves. Breitbart Texas reported that the lastest ice cream recalled was for products manufactured between March 17 and March 27. Illnesses were reported in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.
As Breitbart Texas also reported, those most susceptible to Listeria’s affects are children, pregnant women, newborns, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
This is not the first time the country has seen a listeria outbreak. In 1985, a devastating eruption of the micro-organism also known as Listeria monocytogenes. Listeriosis occurred in Los Angeles and was California’s worst incidence of food poisoning.
LA County confirmed 142 cases of human listeriosis linked to eating soft cheese made by Jalisco Mexican Products, Inc. Forty-eight people lost their lives in that outbreak. Three years later, a New England Journal of Medicine report traced the outbreak to raw milk supplied to the company to make the product, although investigators never found the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in the dairy herds, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The same report cited 93 of those infections — 65.5 percent — struck pregnant women or their offspring. The other 49 cases, or 34.5 percent, were non-pregnant adults; 28 died, including 10 newborns and 18 adults. There were also 20 miscarriages.
Blue Bell is in the process of changing its “test and hold” procedure to avoid this situation in the future.
Texans love their Blue Bell and so do folks in 23 other states where the iconic ice cream is sold. It is the third largest ice cream manufacturer in the nation. While devoted fans await the frozen dairy confectioner’s return, Good Day Fox 4 conducted a temporary replacement contest for those experiencing the #BlueBellBlues. The winner was Haagen-Dazs.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.