Blue Bell Ice Cream, the US company at the centre of a fatal listeria outbreak earlier this year, has announced the latest stage of its return to the market.

The third phase of a five-step re-entry will see Blue Bell products roll back out into most of Texas and southern Alabama. “It is our largest phase so far,” Ricky Dickson, Blue Bell’s vice president of sales and marketing, said.

To begin phase three, Blue Bell will bring back 215 of its employees who were put on paid furlough earlier this year.

Two of Blue Bell’s three plants are up and running. Dickson said the company hoped to have its site in Brenham back in operation “soon”.

“We want to make sure that we can properly service each account with an adequate supply of products before moving to the next phase,” he added.

Blue Bell pulled its ice cream from the market in April after its products were linked to the outbreak.