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Blue Bell furloughing 37% of workforce after listeria illnesses linked to ice cream

(KLTV) -

Blue Bell Creameries announced Friday the company would furlough 37% of its workforce following a series of listeria illnesses linked to its ice cream prompted a total product recall.

On the company's website, CEO and President Paul Kruse announced "the agonizing decision" that the company will have to reduce the size of its workforce and take other cost-cutting measures due to the extended timeline the company would need to resume production.

“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell's CEO and President,” Kruse said in the statement. “At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future. This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally."

According to the company's website, the process of cleaning and improving Blue Bell's four production plants is going to take longer than the company initially anticipated, especially at the main plant in Brenham where major repairs and equipment replacements are expected. There is no timeline for when Blue Bell will begin producing ice cream again.

Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees – or 37 percent of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 – will be laid off, according to Kruse. This includes Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nevada, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. It appears Texas will not see any layoffs at this time.

The announcement comes after The Texas Department of State Health Services outlined requirements for Blue Bell Creameries before the company can begin selling ice cream again.

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