On December 30, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that they are investigating the Listeria outbreak associated with ice cream produced by Blue Bell. The FDA’s investigation revealed a myriad of issues at all three of Blue Bell’s production facilities. These facilities are located in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. Facilities had samples test positive for Listeria contamination on several occasions since 2013. The Department of Justice investigation will attempt to find how much the executives of Blue Bell knew about these contaminations prior to Blue Bell’s deadly Listeria outbreak.
This is not the first time that the Department of Justice has investigated a foodborne outbreak. Most notably, the Department of Justice filed criminal charges against the executives of the Peanut Corporation of America after it was discovered that they knowingly shipped peanut products contaminated with Salmonella. These products caused a major outbreak in 2008 and 2009 that sickened 714 people and left 9 people dead. Those executives were sentenced to serve prison terms for their involvement in the outbreak.
Ice cream produced by Blue Bell was discovered to be the source of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in March of 2015. Listeria, which is a very dangerous and potentially deadly bacteria, was discovered in multiple places in all three of Blue Bell’s facilities. Over the course of the 4 month CDC investigation, 10 cases of Listeria poisoning were linked to Blue Bell ice cream. These ten cases were spread over 4 states. Both Oklahoma and Arizona reported one case of illness. Kansas reported 5 cases, and Texas reported 3. Every case of illness required the victim to be hospitalized, and 3 people were reported dead in Kansas.