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Blue Bell Gets New Investor, Says Ice Cream Will Return to the Market

BluebellRecallSign_JohnJordan_trib.jpg
John Jordan/Texas Tribune
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Blue Bell recalled ice cream and halted production earlier this year after 3 deaths were linked to listeria contamination in one of the company's plants. The company announced today that it found a new investor to help get its products back on shelves.

Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries is getting a cash infusion that the company says will "ensure" the return of its ice cream to the market. The creamery announced Texas businessman Sid Bass has become a partner, though it did not say how much he’s investing.

“We are pleased Sid Bass has made a significant investment with our company. The additional capital will ensure the successful return of our ice cream to the market and our loyal customers,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and President, in a press statement posted on bluebell.com.

The company earlier this year shut down production and issued a national recall after its ice cream was linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.

A report released in May said the FDA had found listeria bacteria in a Blue Bell plant in Oklahoma two years ago, and that despite the discovery, the company continued to ship ice cream from the plant.

In mid-May, the company announced it would lay off more than a third of its workers and furlough another 1,400.

A Texas Tribune report in April traced the path investigators used to find the origin of the contamination:

The crisis for Blue Bell began on March 13, when Kansas officials determined that Listeria-tainted portions of the company’s ice cream made it into products served to five hospital patients between January 2014 and January 2015. Of the five who became ill, three died. By March 24, Kansas officials traced the source of the listeria to Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Okla., built by the Texas company in 1992. On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control had traced Blue Bell’s Listeria strain to six other patients going back to 2010. Four had been hospitalized in Texas for unrelated problems when they became sick from listeria. Five days later, on April 8, the CDC had identified two clusters of Blue Bell listeria victims. The strains were traced to the plants in Oklahoma and Texas.

Bass is an investor whose fortune came from his family's oil-and-gas company. Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus is named for his parents. 

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