I was interested to read Michael Taylor’s comments on the recall of Blue Bell ice cream contaminated with Listeria. Mr. Taylor is Deputy FDA Commissioner for food safety.
This was an outbreak in which 10 people were hospitalized and three died. The best place to begin on this is on the CDC website for the Blue Bell outbreak. It provides excellent graphics summarizing the number of cases and where they occurred:
This outbreak was particularly awful because inspections had found severe violations of standard food safety procedures, yet the company ignored them. The result: people died.
Mr. Taylor asks if this outbreak could have been prevented with better FDA regulation. In 2010, Congress passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) but it’s taken time for the implementation. Taylor says:
the preventive controls for human food rule, if finalized as proposed, would require that companies like Blue Bell have a written food safety plan, based on an analysis of likely hazards, and companies would have to show us that plan during inspections.Listeria monocytogenes is a classic example of a hazard that a company should be controlling. Under the proposed standards, companies would be required to have the right controls in place to minimize hazards and would have to verify that their controls are working.
But, he says, to implement the law, the FDA needs funding: “If we do not get the funding, we will lose momentum, and implementation will be badly disrupted.”
Congress, no doubt, will continue to keep the FDA on a short string. No industry likes being regulated and the food industry fights regulation in every way it can.
The FDA needs to do more to ensure food safety but can’t without inspectors.
That leaves legal approaches. For these, I go right to the websites of the Marler-Clark law firm, which specializes in food safety cases.
Here’s what Bill Marler and his colleagues have had to say about the Blue Bell case (most recent first and I may be missing some):
- June 6 Listeria found in Blue Bell ice cream from Alabama plant
- June 2: Blue Bell Agrees to Do What It Should Have Been Doing All Along
- May 31: A Blue Bell Listeria Timeline – 2010 to 2015
- May 22: So, Why Did Blue Bell Ignore FDA’s: “Guidance for Industry: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Refrigerated or Frozen Ready-To-Eat Foods?”
- May 21: Blue Bell Missed Warning Signs to Avoid Listeria Contamination, Illnesses, Recalls, Layoffs and ?
- May 16: Bad Listeria Management Causes 2850 Blue Bell Employees Out of Work
- May 15: Kruse: “An Agonizing Decision” – But It Was Preventable
- May 15: Blue Bell Knowingly Sold Ice Cream From A Plant With Listeria
- May 14: Blue Bell Enters Consent Decree with Texas and Oklahoma (Likely Alabama Too) To Do What It Always Should Have Been Doing – Make Safe Food
- May 14: Blue Bell Ice Cream For Sale: Stupid Is As Stupid Does
- May 7: Paul Kruse, President and CEO of Blue Bell Ice Cream – My Advice, Get a Good Criminal Lawyer
- May 7: Blue Bell Ice Cream Manufacturing – An Accident Waiting to Happen
- April 20: Listeria outbreak kills three in Kansas linked to ice cream consumed from Blue Bell Creameries
- April 8 (?): Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak
- March 15: Marler – The Food Safety Lawyer – Update On Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak
- March 13: Blue Bell Creameries Listeria Outbreak Sickens 5 in Kansas Killing 3
Marler-Clark is filling a critical regulatory gap by suing companies that cause foodborne illnesses and deaths. But this is after-the-fact.
As Bill Marler has been pleading since 2007: please put me out of business.
Prevention would be much, much better. Hence the need for more FDA resources.
Update, June 12: The CDC concludes its investigations and the FDA releases reports