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Rocky Ford Spokesperson Believes Blue Bell Can Reboot After Listeria Outbreak

DENVER (CBS4) - Blue Bell Creameries on Monday began cleaning up and moving forward after a listeria outbreak killed three consumers and sickened others.

The 108-year-old ice cream company isn't giving up. Blue Bell is doing what others have done in the past -- apologizing and fixing the problem.

"We're actually one big family," a Blue Bell employee says on a video on the Blue Bell website.

Blue Bell began intensive cleaning and enhanced training to combat the listeria outbreak that shut down operations.

"It hurts, but we know that support is there," another Blue Bell employee says.

Blue Bell Ice Cream (credit: CBS)

On its website the company let long-time employees assure the public.

"We implement all the measures we need to do to correct it going forward and prevent it in the future," another employee says.

"That's Damage Control 101," marketing professor Darrin Duber-Smith with Metropolitan State University of Denver said. "You admit there's a problem, you don't deflect it, you don't make excuses for it, and you say that 'we're going to fix it in the future.' "

Rocky Ford cantaloupe growers were proactive, even though they weren't the problem. In 2011 listeria-contaminated cantaloupes from Jensen Farms killed 33 consumers. The tainted melons were called Rocky Ford Sweets.

Jensen Farms
Jensen Farms (credit: CBS)

"It just devastated the whole area," Rocky Ford spokeswoman Diane Mulligan said.

But Mulligan says the Rocky Ford growers rebuilt the brand.

"They invested a million dollars in building a new shed, hiring safety managers," she said.

Mulligan says sales have since steadily increased.

By sharing worker pride and making changes, Mulligan believes Blue Bell can reboot -- and she's not alone.

"We'll be a better company after this," another Blue Bell employee says on the website.

Blue Bell will be producing test ice cream batches this week, but that ice cream will not be shipped for retail use.

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