Blue Bell Creameries will begin distributing ice cream in parts of Texas and Alabama on Aug. 31, with south Louisiana targeted in the fourth phase of a five-part plan to roll out the company’s products.
Blue Bell halted production in April after its products were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. In recent weeks, Blue Bell had its Alabama plant cleared by state health officials to return to production.
Blue Bell said its capacity is limited because it is only producing in one facility. No date has been set to begin the phase that includes Louisiana.
“Our return will include parts of 15 states but will take some time as we work to restart operations at our production facilities,” said Ricky Dickson, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bell.
“This first phase will begin Monday, Aug. 31, and when we can properly service the customers in each area, we will add new areas.”
The first phase of the product rollout includes the Brenham, Houston and Austin, Texas, areas, as well as parts of Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. Phase 2 covers north central Texas and southern Oklahoma; Phase 3, southwest Texas and central Oklahoma; Phase 4, the majority of Texas and south Louisiana; and Phase 5, north Louisiana, Mississippi, the rest of Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as other areas.
Dickson compared the company’s return to stores to filling an Olympic-size pool with a water hose, saying “It can be done, but it’s going to take some time.”
“Over the past several months, we’ve been working to make our facilities better to ensure everything produced is safe, wholesome and the highest quality for you to enjoy,” Dickson said.
Listeria was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms.