Blue Bell is finally following in the wise steps of Tylenol by recalling all of its products. According the Centers for Disease Control, the listeria in Blue Bell ice cream has been an issue for four or five years. CDC research shows the bacteria causes about 260 deaths each year along with 1,600 illnesses. This year, there have been 3 deaths and 10 illnesses in Kansas, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The same strain of listeria that made people sick this year is the same strain that made people sick in 2010.
Connection? The Blue Bell factories. Listeria can stay alive in pipes, tubes and freezing conditions for years unlike some viruses and bacteria. Listeria-contaminated ice cream is obviously not an issue to take lightly. So why did it take Blue Bell so long to do a total recall?
1. Blue Bell has never needed a total voluntary recall in 108 years
2. Blue Bell didn’t want to take a hit to its bottom line for two to three weeks (loss of profit, cost to test and sanitize, cost of staff time while on leave)
This raises a question: Will Blue Bell prices be astronomical when products are back on shelves?
3. Blue Bell didn’t want to take a public hit to its reputation
The fact that it took the company years to do a total recall might actually be worse for its reputation than if it would have recalled its products immediately after people became ill in 2010. But on a positive note, at least the company is now putting its customers first. Blue Bell’s CEO and President Paul Kruse released this statement on April 20:
We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe. 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.
Although he didn’t blatantly admit fault for anyone’s death or illness, the apology and commitment to do better is there. The statement is a little more heartfelt than the typical corporate apology. The company’s use of utilitarianism is good (and ethical) PR.
Find the details about the Blue Bell recall on the company’s website.
Another ice cream company, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, also recalled its products on April 23 because of listeria fears. The company hasn’t come across any complaints of illness from its customers, but doesn’t want to take a risk. Jeni’s has the right idea. If there is public fear, the best thing to do is recall products and only sell them when there is 100 percent certainty that the product poses no health risks.
Based in Ohio, the company has scoop shops in Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, South Carolina and California. Its products can also be ordered online and found in stores like Target and Whole Foods.
Visit the company website for more information on the recall.
Craving Ice Cream?
After reading about listeria and its effects, I can’t say that I am. But I do know at some point my Blue Bell cravings will come back with a vengeance! For now, I do hope everyone is enjoying their over-priced Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But just remember, Blue Bell will always be number one (at least in Texas)!