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Oklahoma Blue Bell Plant Up And Running, No Timetable For Sweet Treats' Return

Several cartons of Blue Bell Ice Cream in a shopping cart
Dave 77459
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Four months after Blue Bell recalled all of its products due to a listeria scare that led to several deaths, the dairy company's suburban Tulsa plant started churning ice cream Tuesday.

“We are humbled by the incredible customer loyalty we have seen, and we thank our customers for their continued patience as we work through the process of resuming production and getting back into stores,” Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse said in a statement.

The plant had been shut down for months because traces of listeria were found at the facility. Broken Arrow mayor Craig Thurman says the city is happy to have the company back.

“My favorite food’s ice cream, so I’m excited about it,” Thurman said. “But I think a lot of people are really excited about the fact it’s a big part of the community. They’re really a big contributor to things that go on.”

About 70 percent of the Broken Arrow plant’s 200 workers have returned to work. Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce President Wes Smithwick says most of the workers did not leave the company.

“We have manufacturers – I can take you within a half-a-mile of here – that have about 10 different positions that they’re hiring,” Smithwick said. “So most of those people who are skilled could’ve found jobs elsewhere. But the ones that chose to stick it out went back to Blue Bell. And I think that speaks volumes.”

Two of Blue Bell’s three production facilities are now back in operation. The dairy company says there's no firm date for when ice cream from the Broken Arrow facility will be available for sale.

The production facility in Sylacauga ,Alabama started producing ice cream a little over a month ago, and the fruits of their labor started appearing on store shelves in south Texas on Monday.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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