‘Listeria is combatted by constantly searching for it,’ Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream says

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream has confronted its issue with Listeria head on.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream has confronted its issue with Listeria head on.

Related tags: Ice cream, Listeria monocytogenes

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has been “aggressively searching for Listeria” ever since the US Midwestern ice cream chain first discovered the harmful human pathogen in its Ohio production facilities last year. 

That same commitment has been reemphasized by the company following a warning letter issued by the FDA after the agency inspected Jeni’s ice cream production kitchen in January 2016.

During its January inspection, the FDA collected samples from various areas in the company’s processing facility and found the presence of the pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes ​(L. monocytogenes​), and determined that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream products were “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.”

A constant challenge

The company has been battling eradicating the presence of Listeria since May 2015 when production was shut down and a voluntarily recall of its frozen products was issued after finding Listeria in one pint of ice cream, founder Jeni Britton Bauer said on the company website. Once production resumed, the company had to stop operations once more in June 2015 after the same pathogen was discovered on the floor away from food contact surfaces.

“No Listeria got into any ice cream we served,”​ founder Bauer said at the time.

Since the detection of Listeria in its processing facilities, the company said it immediately took action by testing every batch of product prepared in their facility to confirm the absence of Listeria. According to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, since it reopened all of its stores a year ago the company has not had a single batch of ice cream test positive for Listeria.

Putting Listeria detection into context

While the company said it is doing everything it can to combat Listeria, which included an immediate corrective/preventive response to the detection of Listeria on the floor between the dish cleaning room and preparation area; the company also stated that Listeria is a widespread reality of most food processing operations.

“We want to clarify that the periodic detection of Listeria on non-food contact surfaces is not in any way abnormal in the industry or indicative of an ‘outbreak’ of Listeria,”​ a joint statement from the company’s founder, CEO, and quality control leader said.

As part of its Listeria control program, the company conducted nearly 200 swabs every day for two months following the first detection of Listeria throughout its 2,000-square-foot production kitchen, which is above the industry recommendation of 1 swab per 1,000 square feet.

“When food production companies look hard enough, often enough, they will find Listeria in their food production facilities. Listeria is so widespread in the natural world, it will inevitably find its way into otherwise clean environments,” the​ company wrote.

Preventing its spread

What Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream does ensure is that the spread of Listeria does not extend beyond the floor area to food contact zones and in Zone 2 (the immediate area around food contact surfaces) of its ice cream production process.

“In the last year we have performed more than 2,000 environmental swabs in our constant search to detect Listeria. In that year, Listeria has never been detected on a food contact surface, or in Zone 2,”​ the company said. 

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