Prof baffled by public support as Blue Bell ice cream returns to Texas

As Blue Bell ice cream returns to most of Texas, Mindy Brashears, a professor of food safety and public health at Texas Tech told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal  she’s baffled by the public’s response to Blue Bell’s return, adding she believes a company selling meat products — such as beef — would probably be out of business under the same circumstances.

wtfBlue Bell was greeted by some faithful fans at 4 a.m. Monday who were awaiting the product’s return after the Brenham-based company recalled all its products when it was linked to 10 listeria cases that resulted in three deaths.

One fan who wasn’t awaiting the product’s return with open arms is Mindy Brashears, the director of International Center for Food Industry Excellence and a professor and researcher at Tech. She is currently teaching a class in the Bahamas, but spoke with A-J Media through email.

She said there’s no logical explanation she can think of to explain why consumers were so anxious and welcoming for the product’s return.

“The consumer response to Blue Bell baffles me,” she said. “First of all, had this been a beef product, the public outcry/ban would have likely put the company out of business. There is much history of this phenomenon. This occurs even when no illnesses are reported and there is simply a recall of the product.”

Blue Bell did face economic hardship after the recall and temporary shut-down.

But what Brashears found most troubling was what she called Blue Bell’s lack of response to addressing the problem sooner. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s investigation, the outbreak began in 2010. Brashears said it wasn’t until the outbreak caught public attention that the company decided to act.

blue.bell.jul.15“Of great concern is the fact that they knew the product was going to hospitals and schools, thus reaching the most at-risk populations and therefore, they should have been especially diligent in addressing the issues that started back in January of 2010 instead of waiting for the problem to grow,” she said.

Brashears said Listeria monocytogenes, or listeria, is a bacteria that causes muscle aches, headaches and fever. It can cause septicemia and meningitis and even death, she said.

Listeria is of special concern when it’s in a ready-to-eat product like cheeses and ice cream, and the center for disease control estimates 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths each year in the U.S. because of it.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Policy, Listeria and tagged , , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time