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Following recalls, Blue Bell lays off a third of its workers

Blue Bell Creameries announced Friday it would lay off more than one third of its workforce and furlough another third of its employees as it struggles to make changes at its production plants after food safety violations came to light last month.

The manufacturer decided to recall all of its products in April after its ice cream was linked to Listeria outbreaks earlier this spring.

Of its 3,900 employees, Blue Bell said 750 full-time and 700 part-time workers representing 37% of its workforce would be laid off. An additional 1,400 will be placed on partially paid furlough. The remainder of Blue Bell’s employees will have their pay reduced.

In a video message, Blue Bell president and CEO Paul Kruse called the decision “the most difficult thing I have had to deal with in my life.”

“The whole process of getting ready to make our ice cream again and to get it right is taking longer than we anticipated, particularly at our Brenham, [Texas], plant location,” Kruse said. “We do not have a firm timeline for when we will start producing again, and when we do we will start up in a more limited way, so we do need to reduce salaries and the size of our workforce.”

Blue Bell will suspend operations at its distribution centers in Phoenix (2 branches) and Tucson, Ariz.; Denver; Indianapolis; Kansas City and Wichita, Kan.; Louisville, Ky.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Las Vegas; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Richmond, Va.

Kruse said Blue Bell would work with laid off workers “in whatever manner we can assist them.” The company also said it would contact local chambers of commerce to ask for help for dismissed employees.

“This is a terribly sad day for all of us at the company, and for me personally. We are needing to take this step to ensure a successful return and the possibility of a strong future for Blue Bell Creameries, but it still hurts a lot,” said Kruse.

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