Paper 2: Blue Bell Creameries


After reading Lexi’s blog post about Blue Bell, I was hoping to delve deeper on the company’s listeria outbreak and how the company coped with the recall for Paper 2. As we know, the company recalled all of its frozen dairy products and ice cream in 2015, after an enhanced sampling program detected listeria monocytogenes within multiple products and across multiple plants. Ten people in four states were hospitalized as a result of the outbreak and three individuals in Kansas died. Unlike other bacteria, listeria can grow even in extreme cold refrigerated temperatures, explaining why the cases spanned over the course of several years. According to manufacturers, because Listeria is found regularly in the natural environment, one can never assume that it can be entirely eradicated. So did Blue Bell make the right call by shutting down its facilities, disposing of eight million gallons of ice cream and leaving several of its employees without jobs? How much can we hold Blue Bell accountable in regards to something that is not fully within the realm of their control? Are they taking sufficient preventative measures in attempts to avoid another outbreak?

After the nationwide recall, Blue Bell Creameries enhanced the testing of its facilities and the company gradually began to replenish its product to store shelves. Since 2015, Blue Bell has found with its enhanced testing some locations in which suspected listeria might be present. While it is not guaranteed that listeria can be entirely eradicated, the purpose of the company’s enhanced environmental testing is to identify locations where bacteria could be found in order to properly clean and sanitize the surface and prevent further/widespread contamination. It is clear that in the midst of crisis, Blue Bell Creameries held a high standard of responsibility. Their approach to the recent blunder was undoubtedly handled with chivalry. The company’s reaction to the listeria outbreak shows that it not only cares about its brand and the quality of its product, but also that it is willing to go above and beyond to ensure that they maintain customers’ trust and satisfaction.

However, in addition to addressing where they are today in regards to CSR, I also plan on discussing what Blue Bell should have been doing all along and why is it that these recalls are oh-so-frequent (i.e. Chipotle and the Ecoli crisis). This links back to proactive versus reactive firms. Why does it take an outbreak like this for corporations to implement safer means of production? These companies are food companies after all. This links back to the deontological school of ethics. It is the food industry’s societal duty to provide its consumers with safe and contamination-free products, so why aren’t these contingencies accounted for before they occur? By looking at Blue Bell from both consequentialist and deontological school of thoughts, I plan to analyze Blue Bells societal duty as a company within the food industry, in addition to dissecting the cost-benefit analysis associated with halting production.

Sources thus far, not including readings from class:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207543.2010.508952  – addressing the root causes of recalls within the supply management chain

http://fortune.com/2015/09/25/blue-bell-listeria-recall/

http://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm438104.htm

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5 thoughts on “Paper 2: Blue Bell Creameries

  1. Great topic – I love how you’re using a blogpost you read about to delve deeper into an issue that wasn’t discussed! I think the structure of your paper is sound and look forward to reading more about Blue Bell and the proactive measures that could have been taken, especially since contamination is something that can be applied to almost all food producers whether we hear about it or not.

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  2. Morgan, such a wonderful topic to delve deeper into (though I’m a tad biased)! After reading through this post, I am interested in reading your paper because I believe you have a strong outline documenting what you will discuss. First, I really like how you mentioned the science behind the listeria bacteria and proper sanitation measures Blue Bell should have taken to ensure customer safety. The two schools of ethics you choose to discuss tie nicely into this case, and I think there is a lot to explore with Blue Bell through a deontological and consequentialist view point. I also liked how you plan on drawing in current and more “well-known” companies (like Chipotle) into your paper because these health crises happen more frequently than we all expect.

    Personally, I think there is a lot more about Blue Bell’s history and their “mom and pop” feel to the company than other companies in the food industry. In your paper, you might choose to elaborate on this notion, because it distinguishes Blue Bell from other companies (in my opinion). Moreover, the “cult-like” customers were not expecting their beloved ice cream company to be hit with such a devastating crisis. For a while, there was a real concern that they would not return, but luckily they did!

    I think your sources are great so far. Especially the FDA article and any sources I used in my blog post helped me immensely. There might be YouTube videos you could look into about interviewing employees, locals, etc. Best of luck with your paper!

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  3. You need more for the ethics side. Don’t look at it from deontological and consequentialist. Find ONE source for one of these that is interesting or relevant and dig into it.

    This book has a chapter on food safety. Look down in the Table of Contents.

    Did Blue Bell have more lysteria tha other dairy or frozen food companies? I think the beginning point of the realization that there will always be some risk is important. Just because Blue Bell had a lysteria problem does not, by itself, indicate ethically troubling or encouraging firm behavior. AS you are headed, what they did before and during is more relevant. And, I don’t mean to be flip, but 3 people out of how many pints of ice cream? Whether or not this is horrifying may be a function of how avoidable it is.

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