Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream Inc., which supplies ice cream, gelato, custard, sorbet and other products to Seattle-area stores and restaurants, has resumed production after listeria at the Snohomish plant sickened two men.
Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream has resumed operations more than a month after a listeria food-poisoning problem that sickened two King County men and forced a voluntary recall of a year’s worth of ice cream, gelato and other products.
The problem was traced to an “external source,” Barry Bettinger, the Snohomish company’s chief executive and owner, said in a statement Friday. Though Bettinger wouldn’t identify it, state agriculture officials said listeria was found on a tote, a large plastic container used to transport hundreds of gallons of milk.
It’s still unclear how, when or where the tote became contaminated, said Hector Castro, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). An investigation is continuing.
The ice-cream company’s officials said the plant underwent “comprehensive cleaning, sanitation and testing.” Bettinger hired IEH Laboratories of Lake Forest Park, experts in microbiological epidemiology, to help correct issues identified with the factory’s infrastructure and food-processing practices that may have prevented the listeria from being detected and posed other risks.
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Two men in their 50s with underlying health problems were hospitalized last fall after consuming the company’s products and developing infections tied to the outbreak. They have since recovered.
“We are so sorry about all of this,” Bettinger said in a statement. “We never want to put our customers through something like this ever again.”
The company renovated the plant, revamped the central sanitizing system, retrained employees and put in place new requirements for bacterial analysis from all suppliers and a regular third-party environmental-testing program.
In addition, it started a hold-and-release program in which all batches are tested for bacteria before shipping.
The Snohomish company has supplied about 1,000 gallons a day of ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet, as well as ice-cream bases, to a range of stores and restaurants including Molly Moon, Seattle’s Space Needle, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods.
Molly Moon is working with the plant again, said Emilia Arnold, a company spokeswoman.
The company pasteurizes the custom dairy bases that Molly Moon uses to make its ice cream, she said.
The ice-cream business failed a state sanitation inspection Oct. 15, but the problems weren’t deemed critical, so the firm was allowed to stay open, state agriculture officials said.
It was shuttered in December, after the two listeria cases were traced to confirmed contamination at the plant.
Officials issued a voluntary recall for all products made between Jan. 1 and Dec. 21, 2014.
A re-inspection this month found no evidence of bacteria and confirmed that it had corrected other identified problems, WSDA officials said.
Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream began shipping Jan. 26 and products will be available in stores by February, firm officials said.
All products from 2014 have been destroyed and new products have been tested for safety.