Jeni’s Ice Cream uses raw milk?

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Jeni’s Ice Cream is coming to North Carolina and bringing their fun flavors and tasty desserts. And raw milk?

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is scooping up its signature gourmet ice cream and frozen yogurt in South End.

That roughly 1,000-square-foot boutique ice cream shop is located in the Design Center complex. It marks the brand’s first N.C. scoop shop — and 35th overall.

That spot just fit for the brand, says founder Jeni Britton Bauer.

Jeni’s sets itself apart with how its ice cream is prepared.

That means using raw milk, avoiding stabilizers and emulsifiers and using the best ingredients. For example, whiskey is distilled in the U.S., and the brand uses Fair Trade Chocolate and local ingredients when possible, such as fresh fruit or mint from the farmers market.

I tweeted at the @jenisicecreams handle looking for clarification. Have yet to hear what they mean by raw milk. I read it as unpasteurized milk goes into their ice cream. Other folks on Twitter have pointed out that it might just be marketing speak. Like ‘Hey, we make ice cream out of raw milk, well milk that starts raw, and then gets pasteurized.’

I don’t want to get into the raw milk choice debate here. You can check out Food Safety Talk 53: Raw Milk Hampsterdam for my thoughts on that.

Thanks to Dr. Tara Smith (@aetiology) on sleuthing this passage from the Jeni’s website where they talk about raw milk,

Dairy is the foundation of everything we do, so we use the best we can find. Smith’s, the 110-year-old dairy in Orrville, Ohio, has been sourcing raw cream and grass-grazed milk and pasteurizing it for us for the past couple of years. They work with small family farms within 200 miles of our kitchen.

Back to the Biz Journal article:

“Our ice creams really are fundamentally different from others,” she says.

If they make it with raw milk, yeah. And would be doing so illegally in NC. If they are talking about raw milk that becomes pasteurized before they get it, or they pasteurize it, then they are like pretty much every other ice cream processor in the U.S.

Update: Jeni’s (@jenisicecreams) tweeted back to me with this info:


Face palm: Jeni’s says its ice cream is ‘absolutely 100 percent safe’

One of my daughters got married on the weekend. I have two grandsons. The Tragically Hip may never play live again (it’s a Canadian thing, but 1-in-3 Canadians watched the concert Saturday night from Kingston).

jauce.weddingMy other 30-year bookmark is my formal and informal interests in the interactions between science and society. In 1997, I co-wrote a book called Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk: The Perils of Poor Risk Communication.

We had a top-10 list of conclusions to be applied in whatever risky business might come along:

  • a risk information vacuum is a primary factor in the social amplification of risk;
  • regulators are responsible for effective risk communication;
  • industry is responsible for effective risk communication;
  • if you are responsible for communicating about risks, do it early and often;
  • there is always more to a risk issue than what science says;
  • always put the science in a policy context;
  • educating the public about science is no substitute for good risk communication practice;
  • banish no risk messages;
  • risk messages should address directly the contest of opinion in society; and,
  • communicating well has spinoff benefits for good risk management.

I watch these microbial food safety risk shitfests, document them in, and sigh-a-sigh worthy of someone who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Or maybe I did.

Who knows, at this point.

Following the Listeria-Blue-Bell-ice-cream debacle, some of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams tested positive for Listeria in April, 2015.

At the time, I applauded Jeni’s CEO John Lowe for the proactive steps they announced after finding Listeria in their ice cream, but also wondered why they weren’t looking before?

Lowe also said, “Finally, let me reiterate: we will not make or serve ice cream again until we can ensure it is 100% safe. Until we know more about reopening, we are going to continue to keep our heads down and to work hard to get this issue resolved. But know this: you’ll be hearing from us soon.”

Sounds like some cookie-cutter MBA approach to crisis.

And no one can ensure 100% safe.

triple.face.palmJeni’s possibly found this out, on Aug. 9, 2016, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fired off a warning letter saying Listeria had again been found in Jan. and Feb. 2016 in their Columbus facility.

“Two of 75 samples were found to have listeria by the FDA’s lab. Those two samples came from:

* The floor adjacent to the prep room, nine feet from a prep table where the base for Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso was being processed and packaged.

* The floor of the wash room by a drain, two feet from a sink used to wash, rinse and sanitize equipment parts, utensils and containers used in production.”

Jeni’s said it took immediate corrective actions and prevented any spread to food contact surfaces or areas around food contact surfaces. It also noted that it has taken more than 2,000 environmental swabs in the past year and listeria has never been detected on food contact surfaces or around food contact surfaces and that its “test-and-hold” procedures, which have been in place for a year, have not turned up a single positive test for listeria.

Dan Eaton of Columbus Business First quotes founder Jeni Britton Bauer, CEO John Lowe and Quality Leader Mary Kamm as jointly writing in a Wednesday blog post“As a result of our sanitation and other food safety procedures, our environmental testing program and our test-and-hold procedures, we can assure everyone that the food we produce is absolutely 100 percent safe.”

Triple face palm, like Neapolitan.



Jeni’s ice cream back after Listeria positives, changes

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams LLC is reopening its production kitchen, but it no longer will be making its ice cream.

jenis-ice-creamThe Columbus-based ice cream maker’s facility at 909 Michigan Ave. will now be used to handle and prepare ingredients, but final production of its products will continue to be done by Orrville-based Smith Dairy, which has been making the company’s ice cream since the production kitchen closed for a second time back in June.

The company declined to answer questions about its new production process at this time.

(Note to self: building trust requires transparency).

Ingredients from farms will be processed in a kitchen separate from the production facility. Produce will not move into the production kitchen until it has been cleaned, peeled, shucked or hulled in that first kitchen.

The production kitchen will still prepare certain ingredients because it has the specialized equipment to do so.

Ingredients then will be transported to Smith Diary, which supplies Jeni’s with its grass-grazed milk and cream, and will be mixed with dairy and frozen into ice cream there.

Every batch will be tested for listeria and other bacteria before going to the public.

The company will continue to handle all of its own research and development and ingredient sourcing, as it was doing prior to the shutdowns.

Seek and ye shall find: Listeria in ice cream

Blue Bell and Jeni’s, both ice cream manufacturers that trade on trust, community and faith, but not Listeria testing, are trying to learn science.

blue.bell.creameriesBlue Bell “hopes” to start test production in its Sylacauga, Alabama, facility in the next several weeks. “When production resumes at the Sylacauga plant, it will be on a limited basis as the company seeks to confirm that new procedures, facility enhancements and employee training have been effective,” the company stated in a press release. “Upon completion of this trial period, Blue Bell will begin building inventory to return to the market.”

Two hundred people attended an actual prayer vigil in the creameries’ hometown of Brenham, then in May, a Blue Bell black market began on Craigslist (one Dallas seller was asking $10,000 for a gallon of Caramel Turtle Cheesecake. With a bowl missing). And, of course, there was this: 

Mimi Swartz of Texas Monthly declared that “ice cream is Proustian.” It conjures up moments of childhood and family better than most foods. And I have have my own Blue Bell-specific memories – the old man gave up the more dangerous vices and he replaced them with one guilty pleasure, bought by the gallon and eaten by the bowl-full. That was childhood, though, and as Maw and Pops got older and more health-conscious, they switched to sorbet. Then they stopped with the sweets altogether. I shed no tears.

As homegrown and delicious as Blue Bell might be, it’s worth reviewing how the company created and responded to this catastrophe—a series of missteps that baffled legal and food safety experts. In May, the Houston Chronicle reported that Blue Bell found “strong evidence” of listeria in one of its Oklahoma factories in 2013, but failed to correct the issue. The Houston Press detailed the company’s “plant environmental testing plan” through a private lab. Although factory swabs were routinely tested for pathogens, Blue Bell only looked at areas that didn’t have contact with ice cream. 

Blue Bell further confounded experts with its first attempt at pulling the dangerous products. It initially tried to quietly remove products back in February before people started getting sick. Unlike a complete recall, these withdrawals don’t require public notice, a particularly scary thought considering the outbreak was linked to three deaths. From the Dallas Morning News

“With something like this, I don’t understand how they got away with doing a withdrawal,” said Cliff Coles, president of California Microbiological Consulting Inc. “Withdrawal is not nearly as strong of language as a recall. If you knew that you had listeria, why wasn’t it a recall?

If Blue Bell had tackled the problem head on, it could’ve meant drastically different results. As food safety lawyer Bill Marler noted in the Houston Press:

jenis-ice-cream-leadjpg-3107e469ad83e50e“If [Blue Bell executives] had been more transparent and forthcoming about this instead of trying to control the story and not commenting for so long, things might have been different, they might have saved jobs.”

Although Blue Bell Creameries might have started off as a humble, aw-shucks local operation, it is, at the end of the day, a business. And an ambitious one at that: It now sells its product in twenty states, has 3,900 employees (before the May layoff of 42 percent), and is the third-ranked ice cream company, nationally, with about $880 million in sales.

 Jeni’s ice cream will either lay off 40 production workers or find them jobs in its central Ohio scoop shops, said John Lowe, CEO, in a statement this afternoon. The company’s Michigan Avenue production kitchen has been idle for the past month after a second listeria positive.

It takes effort: Listeria found again in Jeni’s kitchens, all scoop shops temporarily closed

Listeria has been found once again at the production facility of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

jenis-ice-cream-leadjpg-3107e469ad83e50eIn a message on Friday from CEO John Lowe, he says listeria was found through routine swabbing.

In response, Lowe says all scoop shops will be temporarily closed and ice cream production will be halted until the matter is resolved.  Lowe claims ice cream served in scoop shops since the re-opening of stores in May is “100% listeria-free.”

This comes after Jeni’s shut down all scoop shops and recalled its entire product line in April after listeria was found in a pint-filling machine at a production kitchen.  A government investigation into Jeni’s revealed there was inadequate testing and cleaning in its Columbus plant before listeria was found in some of its ice cream pints.

The Food and Drug Administration released the results of its investigation into Jeni’s plant in late May after a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press. The report says Jeni’s managers did not have an adequate sampling and testing program and were not sufficiently sanitizing some surfaces, including the floors. The report also details residue being found on some equipment.

The report said Jeni’s regulatory manager and director of operations, employees responsible for assuring compliance with government food safety guidelines, showed a “lack of competency” by failing to comply with some of those guidelines.

Thunderbirds Are Go: Jeni’s says ‘We plan to fire this baby up by the end of the week’

I’m not sure what baby Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, is talking about but that’s what she posted on Facebook, along with, “Mr. Sulu, stand by to take us to maximum warp.”

thunderbirds_10241The Columbus-based ice cream maker has been shut down for nearly three weeks after Listeria was found in a pint of its ice cream in Nebraska. Last week it pinpointed the source of the bacteria to a spout on a pint-filling machine and began instituting a series of changes both inside its Michigan Avenue production kitchen and to its operations there.

“It’s been a flurry of activity this past week in our production kitchen,” Britton Bauer wrote. “We removed walls, set up foot foaming stations; we now have a conveyor belt!

Fabulous. Maybe you could outline your Listeria testing protocols and make the results public.

It was the pint-filling machine at Jeni’s that lead to Listeria recall

The listeria found at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ plant was on the spout of one of its pint-filling machines.

listeria4The company plans to spend at least $200,000 to rework its manufacturing line at its Michigan Avenue plant to ensure listeria never visits again, according to a press release.

“We will spend whatever it takes,” said CEO John Lowe, in a statement today.

Jeni’s recalled all of its products and shut down all 21 scoop shops on April 23 after a pint of Dark Chocolate ice cream bought at a Whole Foods in Lincoln, Neb., tested positive for listeria. The test was part of a random sampling of food conducted by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Jeni’s tested other pints and its production kitchen. Listeria was found in at least one other flavor and at the plant. The machine on which the listeria was found is used only to fill pints, not the large bins, known as buckets, used at scoop shops.

The shops will remain closed, though, while Jeni’s works through its plant revisions.

The company has estimated that in all, it will destroy about 535,000 pounds of product. The recall will cost more than $2.5 million, Lowe said.
The biggest change at the production kitchen announced today is that fresh produce and vegetables, a hallmark of Jeni’s flavors, will be processed at a separate location. Jeni’s did not say where.
The company will also use a new testing regime that includes periodic swabbing of the plant to actively search for contaminants. The protocol is similar to one used by Smith Dairy, of Orrville, which supplies Jeni’s ice cream base. Smith Dairy swabs its facilities twice a month to check for listeria and other contaminants, according to Nate Schmid, chief operating officer.

Jeni’s will also test and hold all of its products prior to shipment in order to ensure their safety, Lowe said in today’s statement.

Listeria likes processing lines; Jeni’s pint filler tests positive for Listeria

Earlier today, in a talk about Listeria and produce, my friend Sophia Kathariou told folks at the NC Food Safety and Defense Task Force annual meeting that processing or packing facilities, not production, looks s to be a common link in outbreaks. Processing and packing lines are full of hard to reach places where Listeria can establish a niche.

Like a nozzle or hose on an ice cream pint filler.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, that’s where Jeni’s believes their Listeria issue arose.The listeria found at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ plant was on the spout of one of its pint-filling machines.Jenis-Splendid-Ice-Creams-recalls-all-products-closes-shops-over-listeria-fears

The company plans to spend at least $200,000 to rework its manufacturing line at its Michigan Avenue plant to ensure listeria never visits again, according to a press release.

“We will spend whatever it takes,” said CEO John Lowe, in a statement today.

Jeni’s tested other pints and its production kitchen. Listeria was found in at least one other flavor and at the plant. The machine on which the listeria was found is used only to fill pints, not the large bins, known as buckets, used at scoop shops.

The shops will remain closed, though, while Jeni’s works through its plant revisions.

The company has estimated that in all, it will destroy about 535,000 pounds of product. The recall will cost more than $2.5 million, Lowe said.

The biggest change at the production kitchen announced today is that fresh produce and vegetables, a hallmark of Jeni’s flavors, will be processed at a separate location. Jeni’s did not say where.

The company’s entire production staff is training this week on new safety procedures. The company plans to go above state and federal requirements for food safety, Lowe said. Jeni’s still doesn’t know when it will reopen. 


How skipping a private equity deal made it easier for Jeni’s to deal with Listeria crisis

John Lowe, the CEO of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, with more than 20 locations and distribution in 1,800 retail stores across the U.S., temporarily closed its stores and shut down production late last month after a pint of its Dark Chocolate ice cream at a store in Nebraska was found to have Listeria.

jenis-ice-cream-leadjpg-3107e469ad83e50eLowe, a part owner in the well-regarded and fast-growing ice cream company, is addressing the crisis head on. He did not back out of an appearance at Columbus Startup Week Tuesday, even talking about how the company is addressing the setback.

His candor is an example of how entrepreneurs should address a crisis, with members of the food safety industry citing it as the proper way to respond.

Lowe and his team did not waver. With uncertainty around the product, they shut down operations until they could gather more information.

“There are points in leadership where the decision is pretty clear, and as we looked at ourselves around the table with very foggy info, but enough facts that we thought: ‘We can’t open the stores.’ If we can’t answer why there is one pint that reportedly got listeria in it, then we can’t open the stores. We can’t serve pregnant women and grandmas. That is just not acceptable. We are not going to have to look in the mirror and decide that we blinked at a crucial time, ensuring the safety of our consumers. In a lot of ways, it was a very simple decision. There was no debate. There was nobody around the table arguing the other way…. We are not sure what comes next. We don’t know what is going to cost, or how we are going to fund it. We are not sure what it leads to in terms or how long we will be closed, and the like.”

Lowe said the company encountered a similar situation not too long ago when the executive team decided to walk away from a private equity transaction. And that decision plays right into the handling of the crisis around the listeria recall. Lowe pointed out the importance of making the right decision, even though it created an uncertain future.

“We didn’t know what walking away would entail. We didn’t know what the next steps would be, but we knew it was the right thing to do and we’d just go figure it out. … Looking back at our decision to walk away from the one private equity deal, we are so glad we did because we are so confident now that it enabled us to handle that situation the right way and we would have other people at the table — voting, not voting, they would not have had the ability to make the decision — but we are not 100 percent sure they would have seen it as clear as we saw it. It was just easier and better for us to look at each other and make that decision.”

‘We need to go way beyond state and federal guidelines’ Jeni’s CEO after Listeria found

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is fighting to get back in business after testing in Nebraska more than a week ago showed that a pint of the company’s ice cream was tainted by listeria.

jenis-ice-cream-leadjpg-3107e469ad83e50eListeria also was found later at the company’s Columbus production plant, which had been inspected 17 times by the Ohio Department of Agriculture over a two-year period and as recently as early March.

Not many food-production companies test for listeria, said Sanja Ilic, a food-safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension and an assistant professor of human nutrition. Producers concentrate on prevention, or keeping the bug out altogether.

“Testing out the pathogen is almost impossible to do,” Ilic said.

Lots of companies test for listeria.

John Lowe, the company’s CEO, said, “We now realize we need to go way beyond state and federal guidelines so that we can ensure our customers are safe.”