Several news outlets have reported that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating Blue Bell Creameries following the Listeria outbreak that resulted in three deaths in Kansas and 10 illnesses in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas between January 2010 and January 2015.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the DOJ is mainly interested in the involvement of company executives—did they know about the Listeria contamination? If so, what did they do about it?
Last April Blue Bell recalled all of its products over concerns of Listeria contamination and shut down the production line where the products were manufactured.
Blue Bell started a limited-release of its ice cream products last August. The company has not yet issued a response to the reports about the DOJ investigation, but last week it announced that it would begin a “bonus phase” of product re-entry in El Paso, Texas, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. This is scheduled to be followed by phase five of market re-entry in parts of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia the week of January 18, and then shipment into all of Florida, southern Georgia and southern South Carolina the week of January 25.
The company stated in a press release that after phase five is completed, all of Blue Bell’s furloughed employees will have returned to work.
Following the landmark sentencing of Peanut Corporation of America executives last fall, industry will be watching the outcome of the investigation very closely.