On August 31, Blue Bell ice cream will appear on select store shelves for the first time since April when a deadly Listeria outbreak triggered a recall of all of its products and the temporary closure of its production facilities. Stores in the metropolitan areas of Brenham, Houston and Austin, Texas; and Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama will be the first to begin selling the ice cream.
Blue has three manufacturing facilities: one in Brenham, Texas where its headquarters are located, another in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and a third in Sylacauga, Alabama. The Sylacauga plant is the only one that’s operational right now. The company does not have an estimate on when the other two plants will be operational.
After the initial phase on August 31, distribution from the Sylacauga location will be be rolled out in four phases: North central Texas and southern Oklahoma; Southwest Texas and central Oklahoma, the majority of Texas and southern Louisiana; and in the final phase completing distribution in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas and beginning distribution in Arkansas, Florida, northern Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Several strains of Listeria involved in the outbreak tied to the nation’s third-largest ice cream maker were discovered in those plants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked 10 illnesses and three deaths dating back to 2010 to contaminated ice cream. Documents released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed the company was aware of Listeria in its plants as far back as 2013 but did not test the bacteria to discover if it was pathogenic or take measures to eradicate the problem.