Texas-based ice cream company Blue Bell Creameries has identified the source of last year's listeria outbreak that led to a massive recall and three deaths — at one of its plants, anyway. According to a report the company issued to the Food & Drug Administration, the company believes listeria bacteria spread to equipment through a floor drain in a storage room at its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant, reports the Associated Press.
According to the report, "particles at the plant may have carried listeria and washed into the building's drainage system, gone through the room's drain and settled on the clean equipment." The room in question has since had the drain removed and new flooring put in, and it's no longer used to store equipment.
Ice cream contaminated with listeria was also found at Blue Bell's flagship Brenham, Texas manufacturing facility; the company has been unable to pinpoint the source of the listeria there, saying it could have come from a number of different pieces of equipment. At any rate, the company is at least more certain of the source of its foodborne illness outbreak than Chipotle; neither the burrito chain nor the CDC were able to figure out what caused last fall's E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens of people. But like Chipotle, Blue Bell is also facing a criminal investigation over its food safety disaster.
Blue Bell laid off more than 1,400 workers and suspended its operations for several months following the listeria outbreak; many wondered if the beloved ice cream maker would survive the disaster, but it resumed production last summer.