DALLAS (AP) - Two years after enduring the harsh glare of negative publicity, Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries is inviting consumer scrutiny.
In 2015, the iconic Brenham-based ice cream maker was at the center of a product recall that garnered international attention.
The Dallas Morning News reports this summer, the 100-plus year old company is re-opening an observation deck that allows consumers to watch part of the ice cream-making process at a plant that received a major overhaul.
The observation deck had been the last stop on a ticketed tour of the company's main plant. Now, consumers can stop by the observation area for free and just watch.
"It has been a popular attraction," said spokeswoman Jenny Van Dorf.
"At this time, there is no cost to our visitors. It is a self-guided tour that overlooks one of our production areas. Visitors can see how our products are made like half gallons, pints, three gallons, and three-ounce cups. With the summer crowds, we've seen several hundred each day," she said.
After the recall, the company "had not resumed any type of tour until just a few weeks ago."
The observation area is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. "until our production ends for the day, which is usually between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. "
No photos are allowed.
After the pathogen listeria was found in Blue Bell plants and linked to its ice cream, the company shut down production at all four of its plants, including the two in Texas, and stripped all products from store shelves. Blue Bell also has plants in Alabama and Oklahoma.
The bacteria sickened 10 people and was linked to three deaths.
The company said opening the viewing area is "not a matter of transparency; it's about accommodating our guests who would like to see how our ice cream is made."
"Our tour program, at one time, hosted over 225,000 guests per year," Van Dorf said. "We are happy to once again offer the opportunity to our fans."
The company also has "Country Store and Ice Cream Parlor" locations in Brenham and Sylacauga, Alabama.
Blue Bell, which has gradually increased its offerings and sales territory post recall, is still using the "test and hold" procedure it agreed on with three state health departments.
The products are tested for pathogens before a batch is allowed to be sold.
The company's newest flavors are Sweet 'n Salty Crunch, Cookie Two Step and Southern Blackberry Cobbler.
Attorney Bill Marler, who represents victims in cases of foodborne illness, said he sees the company's gradual roll out of products as part of a larger effort to slowly regain trust.
"It strikes me that they're being very methodical," said Marler, who followed the recall case closely. "I think that Blue Bell is handling the rollout of their product correctly, slowly ... making sure they don't have any glitches. They're doing it the right way and building up their customer base again."