Blue Bell’s response to crisis decidedly corporate

Uneaten: a half-gallon of Blue Bell, bought before news of the listeria outbreak, remains in my freezer.

Uneaten: a half-gallon of Blue Bell, bought before news of the listeria outbreak, remains in my freezer.

Blue Bell likes to call itself “The Little Creamery,” but its recent response to a listeria outbreak shows it’s really a big corporation. The company continues to receive unprecedented levels of public support, despite a listeria outbreak that killed three people, sickened others.

The dessert maker has recalled of all its products,  shutdown of its plants and laid off or furloughed hundreds of employees. Make no mistake: Blue Bell’s lived up to its claim of making “the best ice cream in the country.” But as I write in today’s Houston Chronicle, it’s handling of the crisis and its knowledge that it had a listeria problem years ago that it didn’t reveal raises questions of whether it deserves such unquestioning support.

A half-gallon of Blue Bell Natural Bean Vanilla sits in my freezer, untouched. I could have returned it for a refund or sold it on Craigslist (going rate: $5). Yet I keep it, like a spurned lover holding onto a discarded ring, hoping for the day when the romance is rekindled.

I was born in dairy country and grew up eating fresh-from-the-farm ice cream. Then my family moved to College Station, a mere 40 miles from Brenham, and discovered Blue Bell. My mother, a discerning ice cream aficionado, quickly declared that the “The Little Creamery” made the best she’d ever eaten.

Like so many others, I wanted to believe that Blue Bell’s recent listeria contamination and eventual recall was simply a case of misfortune that would be quickly remedied.

Sadly, a recently revealed U.S. Food and Drug Administration report found that Blue Bell knew of listeria in at least one of its plants two years ago, yet continued selling us its products. Three people have since died and seven others in four states, including Texas, have been sickened.

Read more here. 


About lorensteffy

Loren Steffy is a writer, speaker and consultant. He is the author of Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit published by McGraw-Hill in 2010 and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship, published by Texas A&M University Press in April 2012. A journalist for more than 25 years, he was most recently the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle.
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2 Responses to Blue Bell’s response to crisis decidedly corporate

  1. V. Barletta says:

    Sad story content about a Texas-based institution, but, as always, I am captivated by your words, Mr. Steffy. I have been reading the HC for MANY years, and cannot tell you how much I looked forward to your articles in the Business page. They always seemed to catch the essence and ‘real story’ of the content matter presented. Hope to see additional editorials soon …. keep up the fine work, sir.
    Friendswood, TX


  2. Pingback: Why It Will Take More Than Bass’s Billion to Fix Blue Bell | Loren Steffy's Writings and Ramblings

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