CHICAGO — Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams said it has traced the source of a recent listeria outbreak back to its production kitchen, according to CEO John Lowe.
In a statement released Wednesday, Lowe said the company had found the "smoking gun" behind a listeria contamination that led to the closing of Chicago's Wicker Park and Lakeview locations at 1505 N. Milwaukee and 3403 N. Southport, respectively.
On April 23, Jeni's issued a voluntary recall of all products. This happened as a larger listeria outbreak caused Blue Bell Creameries, the third-largest ice cream brand in America, to also recall its products earlier last month.
The brand was pulled from grocery stores across the city, including Mariano's and Whole Foods locations.
Lowe issued a statement at the time, in part saying, "We will not reopen the kitchen until we can ensure the safety of our customers.”
The source of the contamination, he said, was the spout of a production machine sometimes used to fill pints of ice cream. The contamination was detected by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture during a random sample testing.
Although no one reported becoming ill, Lowe said in order to minimize the risk for any potential widespread contamination, Jeni's production kitchen will ultimately need at least $200,000 in updates and design reconfiguration.
New layout and equipment upgrades would be "designed to further minimize the entry of pathogens into the production environment, streamlining the movement of ingredients and employees," according to Lowe's statement.
Among other safeguards, Lowe said the company will be introducing "aggressive environmental testing," including regularly testing production equipment for traces of listeria or other contaminants.
"The plans we have for reworking our kitchen, along with improved standard operating procedures that go above and beyond federal and state guidelines, will enable us to make the quality of ice creams we are known for, in the safest possible way," Lowe said. "We are hopeful that we will be able to resume ice cream production in the very near future."
The Wicker Park Jeni's outpost at 1505 N. Milwaukee Ave. remains closed. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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