By Emma King, staff writer
Since 1953, Dr Pepper Hour has been a Baylor tradition, pairing the university’s favorite soda with Blue Bell, Texas’ favorite ice cream. This past April, however, Dr Pepper Hour had to continue without its creamy brand-name counterpart.
The problem was that Blue Bell was making people sick. According to FDA reports, 10 patients in four states, were hospitalized with listeriosis, a disease caused by strains of listeria monocytogenes.
Three of the patients died. This lead to an investigation of the source, which was determined to be various Blue Bell products. Strains of listeria monocytogenes were discovered in the central Brenham manufacturing plant and products from the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant.
Blue Bell initially reacted by selectively recalling affected products, but then voluntarily stopped production and recalled all products from store shelves to ensure the safety of their consumers while they solved the problem.
“Baylor catering was absolutely wonderful in responding to notifications that listeria had been found in the ice cream and pulled it immediately,” said Jordana Dickey, assistant director of the Bill Daniel Student Center. “Student health is their number one concern. They did an excellent job, I think, managing the process.”
Missing Blue Bell made Baylor’s Dr Pepper floats taste a little different, but catering staff worked to ensure the tradition continued.
“It was very important that we kept it as close to the original Blue Bell Dr Pepper flavor,” said Justin Crowder, Baylor caterer for Dr Pepper Hour.
He said he started working at Dr Pepper Hour six months ago, shortly before the Blue Bell recall.
“It was definitely kind of a shock, because it was like, “‘What are we going to do?’” Crowder said.
Dickey said there was concern at the beginning, when Blue Bell went off the shelves, but she said they were able to maintain Dr Pepper Hour.
He said they tried a number of different ice cream brands and combinations to keep the tradition tasting right. Dickey said Dreyer’s ice cream has been the best substitute.
“There’s been a lot of good reaction. A lot of people are now getting used to it,” Crowder said.
He said that they will be going back to Blue Bell as soon as they can, however.
“We definitely missed working with Blue Bell, but we are excited to have them back,” Dickey said.
Riesel junior Brady Baker, who has worked as a Dr Pepper Hour caterer for two years, said that Blue Bell will probably return to Dr Pepper Hour by the spring semester.
“We’ve weathered the storm,” Dickey said.
Blue Bell has started distributing again, but according to accompany press releases, distribution will occur in five phases based on location.
The Brenham and Broken Arrow plants are still shut down, for now, so the ice cream is coming from the Blue Bell production facility in Sylacauga, Ala.
Product distribution will depend on availability. Blue Bell is currently in phase one of their plan and there are no dates released for phase two.