Heightened security for Creamery ice cream comes with a hefty price tag

Story posted October 4, 2012 in News by Megan Flood

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Pieces of plastic found in just three half-gallons of ice cream earlier this year have cost Penn State’s Berkey Creamery $550,000 for new security measures. 

The measures include three metal detectors, one x-ray machine, a shrink-band machine to seal plastic wrap around half-gallon containers and some reconstruction to the conveyer belt line.

The Creamery also has locked all general entrances into the food plant building.

During the week of Sept. 9, the Creamery announced a recall of 39,410 half-gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt made between May 16 and Aug. 11 after the plastic was found.  It also threw out 724 half-gallons before they reached store shelves.

About $3,500 to $4,000 in sales were lost, according to Tom Palchak, the Creamery’s manager for 26 years.

The $550,000 is coming out of the Creamery’s reserve, but Palchak said “the university has helped us from the very beginning by supporting us with resources.”

“With spending this much money, the university remains committed to principles of food safety and that our products are as safe as they can make it,” Palchak said.

He said he hopes to have all security measures running by November.

The Creamery also paid $6,000 to Randolph & Associates Inc., an international firm specializing in the food and dairy industry, to conduct an audit, and it has started to act on the firm’s recommendations, Palchak said.

A Penn State police investigation into the plastic objects continues. Assistant Police Chief  William Moerschabacher said he had no estimate of when it might be concluded.

Palchak said that while police results have not come back, “I can 100 percent tell you the plastic was not plant origin.”

Though the plastic is still being tested, the investigation has concluded that “the type of plastic found is not even permitted to be in a diary plant,” Palchak said.

He noted that the plastic objects were found in only three different half-gallon containers. No traces were found in tubs, pints or Dixie cups.

The x-ray machine is being placed on the conveyer belt that half-gallon tubs pass through. The metal detectors will be on the ice cream lines and on lines for all drinks and three-gallon ice cream tubs.

The machines are made in Erie for the food, medical and pharmaceutical industries, Palchak said.

Despite the costs, he said, there will be no price increase for the half-gallon tubs.  “Our sales are strong and we are very mindful of the economy,” he said.