Humble school board votes to increase Blue Bell ice cream in schools
The Humble Independent School District school board voted to increase its stock of Blue Bell ice cream last week in the midst of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak caused by the Brenham-based company.
Despite an ongoing bacterial outbreak investigation, Humble ISD Superintendent Guy Sconzo recommended to the board the purchase of $25,000 worth of extra Blue Bell products to keep up with demand in district schools for the rest of the semester.
The original amount for Blue Bell purchases approved in the 2014-15 budget was $208,000. Trustees voted 6-0 April 14 to increase that amount to $233,000, which represents a 12 percent increase for the last month of the school year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, several strains of the potentially fatal bacterium listeria have been linked to Blue Bell products produced at plants in Texas and Oklahoma.
Today, Blue Bell recalled all of its products made at all of its facilities including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks because they have the potential to be contaminated with listeria, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
“With all of the Blue Bell recall items, we had only been purchasing two of the items. Once we were notified that they were to be recalled, our folks just could not be more expeditious about removing the items and getting them out of our inventory.”
The superintendent’s recommendation stated that new Blue Bell products have been very popular among students and staff, and that purchases at district schools have increased.
“We really haven’t experienced any problems. Blue Bell continues to be a valued vendor,” Sconzo said. “From the most recent media reports that I am aware of… two days after their Oklahoma plant closed down, it was determined by the state health department that there were no problems with that plant. We continue to be in regular communication, but I am confident that we are in a place where the issue and concern is behind all of us.”
Last week, when the board approved the purchases, the outbreak consisted of two groups of people infected with listeria that were also found in products made at two Blue Bell facilities, according to the CDC. Public health officials had confirmed at least eight people in Texas and Kansas have been infected with the bacteria. Three of those patients died as a result of the infections.
Today’s recalled items have been distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Ariz., Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.
Blue Bell decided to recall all their products today as result of findings from an enhanced sampling program initiated by Blue Bell which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced March 17 and March 27 contained the bacteria. This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for listeria in different places and plants.
Blue Bell expects to resume distribution soon on a limited basis once it is confident in the safety of its products.
Humble ISD announced April 22 that it will not sell Blue Bell products for the remainder of the school year due to the voluntary recall of all products.