Blue Bell Case Shows Emphasis on Profits Over People

Reports late last week that Blue Bell, the troubled Texas-based ice cream company, “will lay off more than a third of its workforce following a series of listeria illnesses linked to its ice cream,” according to the Associated Press, are the latest example of a company putting its profits ahead of responsibility to its workers or to society at large.

As the news agency reports “the 108-year old company’s production plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama have been closed since Blue Bell issued a full recall in April. The company’s ice cream has been linked to listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.” Though the article quotes the company’s CEO saying “our employees are part of our family” it is difficult to balance that statement against revelations by the Houston Chronicle that the company knew it was distributing unsafe products two years ago, but kept the matter secret and continued with business as usual.

“Blue Bell Creameries found strong evidence of listeria in its Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant as early as 2013 but failed to improve its sanitation programs, according to findings released… by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” the newspaper reported last week.

Covering up those problems in the interest of short term profits has, as noted, led to deaths and injuries and now to the loss of hundreds of jobs. It has also exposed the company to legal problems that will probably take years to sort out. If the reports of the company covering up the health risks of its product are correct it is likely to face wrongful death actions brought by the families of the people who died in Kansas and charges of negligence from customers sickened by its tainted products.

As an Oregon and Washington attorney practicing in many of these areas – wrongful deaths, unsafe products, etc – I am saddened to see so much suffering caused, once again, by misplaced priorities in the corporate suite.

 

Houston Chronicle: Blue Bell knew about Listeria contamination, Feds say

AP via Yahoo! News: 1,450 Blue Bell workers losing jobs after listeria problems