While many of our posts have focused on defective products relating to automobiles (e.g. defective airbags) products liability cases can relate to many other items that consumers use every day. One of the more recent issues involves Blue Bell Ice Cream. According to a recent ABC News.com report, the century old ice cream company had recently shut down its operations after finding that a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream had tested positive for listeria.
Fortunately, officials at Blue Bell were able to identify the tainted piece of equipment and were able to shut down their operation so that other listeria contaminated batches were sold. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that additional listeria cases were tied to Blue Bell as far back as 2010.
Despite these issues, the company announced publicly that it intends to start fresh and bring customers the highest quality (and safest) ice cream. Specific steps to achieve this goal include intensive cleaning of equipment and enhanced training.
While these made for good sound bites to promote consumer confidence in Blue Bell’s products, there is still a legal obligation for the company to ensure that its products are free from bacteria that can harm consumers. As with the automakers that we frequently highlight, Blue Bell has a continuing obligation to quickly identify hazards and take reasonable steps to abate them. If the company fails to do this and a consumer is harmed by a defective product (i.e. tainted ice cream), the company could be held liable.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether any lawsuits will be filed by those who were sickened.