How to get away with murder: Blue Bell edition

Posted on 02 Nov 2015 at 11:34am

blue bell cookie doughBlue Bell ice cream has returned to store shelves in the D-FW area. Hooray. Many stores’ stock was wiped out in no time, but don’t worry: More is coming.

In April, all three Blue Bell ice cream factories were closed because the bacteria listeria was found in machinery in the plants and in samples of the ice cream.

The Centers for Disease Control identified three people who died as a result of eating Blue Bell ice cream and seven others who became sick. Most people will fight off infection and those who become ill are usually those with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

The company issued an apology in April that included new procedures that would be used and this:

“We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream, and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.

Notice anything missing? No apology to those whose lives they endangered or to families of those who died. After all, the lawsuits hadn’t been filed yet and it would have been downright un-Texan to admit responsibility.

Over the summer, employees began reporting the filthy conditions at Blue Bell plants. They reported unsanitary conditions. They reported unsafe conditions.

Management refused to do anything about it. In one report, the company bypassed a safety feature of a machine causing an employee to lose the tops of three fingers. Oh, well, they made more ice cream faster.

Until three people died and another seven got sick and the company was forced to recall its product.

Three people dead after corporate executives refused to listen to health and safety complaints? I call that murder, but no one is being held accountable.

No one in the LGBT community should be celebrating how this company endangered our lives after receiving warnings from their own employees that were ignored. Listeria is particularly dangerous for people with HIV. I’m sure the Blue Bell factories will be under intense scrutiny — at least until the publicity dies down. No one’s been fired at the top of that company, though. Once sales are back up, will they cut corners with cleaning to maintain production levels? If you have HIV or live with someone who does, if you are older or for other reasons have a compromised immune system, why become victim No. 4?

So am I really calling for a boycott? Nope. We all make decisions when we shop. This summer, I discovered Braum’s — yes, heresy, I know they’re based in Oklahoma and not Texas, like Blue Bell — and they make great ice cream. I love Braum’s and I’ve chosen not to switch back.

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