May 15, 2015

#BlueBell implodes

UPDATE, June 5: Listeria's now been traced back to Blue Bell's Alabama plant. That means that all three of its ice-cream making plants — the original in Brenham, Texas, its next in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and now this one in Sylacauga, Alabama, it's newest plant have had proven listeria problems. (The Alabama plant is less than 20 years old.)

UPDATE, May 21: The implosion should continue to worsen. We now know that Blue Bell's listeria problems date back further, to 2009, and the problem, and its causes, weren't just at its other plants but at the Brenham home place.
About one drop of condensate per minute was observed falling into three-gallon ice cream buckets on a production line in 2009. An inspector also saw water dripping onto ice cream sandwiches. The release of the inspection documents, in response to a Houston Chronicle request under the Freedom of Information Act, follows findings by the FDA that Blue Bell knew about listeria on floors and pallets in its Oklahoma plant as early as 2013, but did not follow up with tests of food contact surfaces.
Blue Bell, meanwhile, apparently hasn’t furloughed its PR spinmeisters:
"Blue Bell has a long history of working cooperatively with regulatory agencies; we take inspections seriously and make corrections to improve our operations based on findings in those inspections," spokesman Joe Robertson said in an email Thursday. "Blue Bell is currently in the midst of a comprehensive review of all our operations, policies, employee training and cleaning procedures to help give regulatory agencies and the public confidence that when our products return to market, they will be safe."

Hey, Joe, why didn’t your “comprehensive review” happen six years ago?


What can you say about its decision to can nearly 40 percent of its workers, even as it admits it doesn't know when it will reopen?

First, Blue Bell is, by sales, the largest ice cream company in the nation, after private/store brands, tho Wiki says it's only No. 3, but that's still big enough. This image of "the little old company in Brenham" is bullshit and has been for years.

That's why social media palaver, like a #BlueBellStrong hashtag, is also bullshit. So are "prayer vigils." Pray for more and better federal regulations, instead, please — enough for the FDA to actually have a clue, rather than the pseudo-clue it claims to have, whether Blue Bell is safe or not. And, Blue Bell is finally agreeing to a voluntary consent to tell Texas and Oklahoma state officials when it spots listeria in the future. Yes, you read that right.

Second, CEO Paul Kruse (it's been family-run by Kruses at the top since 1919) didn't mention anything about taking a pay cut himself. And, the company is eating its own words from less than 3 weeks ago about layoffs.

Hope those words are listeria-free.

Otherwise, Blue Bell claims it didn't expand itself overly rapidly. Maybe that is itself the problem, in that it didn't match its sales territory growth with ice cream plant growth. Dreyers, for example, has six plants compared to Blue Bell's three.

Maybe Blue Bell's delivery trucks aren't as well insulated or something, too, so that any production plant problems have more chances to be magnified on the road.

Per my main previous blog post on this, since previous cases of listeria were found in Blue Bell product in 2010, this reminds me of the old Fram commercial: You can pay a little now, or a whole lot later. Blue Bell chose not to pay up front, and now a lot of employees are sadly paying the price. Maybe, as part of this, the company needs a non-Kruse outsider to run the company.

And, yes, right now, "implodes" is the right word. A massive gutting of its work force. Continued uncertainty as to when they can even reopen their plants. And, of course, no knowledge of how this will affect both the financial and reputational bottom line.

What word besides "implode" would you use?

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