Blue Bell Creameries could have done a lot more to prevent a deadly listeria outbreak, according to newly released Food and Drug Administration reports. The company knew about a serious listeria problem at one of its production plants years before an outbreak linked to the company's products killed three people, the FDA says. In what food safety attorney Bill Marler tells ABC are among the worst results he's seen in his career, inspections found listeria on surfaces at an Oklahoma plant five times in 2013, 10 times in 2014, and once in January this year. The FDA told the company it had failed to show that its "cleaning and sanitizing program is effective," but Blue Bell failed to make major changes to procedures, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Blue Bell halted operations at the plant last month before recalling all its products. The report also outlines cleaning problems at plants in Alabama and Texas, the Wall Street Journal reports. A Blue Bell spokesman tells ABC that the company "thought our cleaning process took care of any problems, but in hindsight, it was not adequate, which is why we are currently conducting such a comprehensive re-evaluation of all our operations." The FDA report could lead to major lawsuits against the company, which says it will be months before its products are back on the market, the Chronicle reports. "There's no question that Blue Bell’s Oklahoma plant was out of control from a listeria perspective," Marler tells the Journal, adding that "it appears Blue Bell did nothing about it."