Blue Bell to Pay $19 Million as Part of Guilty Plea in Listeria Case

Blue Bell Creameries has pleaded guilty to distributing contaminated goods and its former CEO has been charged with conspiracy and attempted wire fraud in connection to a 2015 listeria outbreak that left three people dead, federal prosecutors have announced.

Blue Bell Creameries agreed to pay more than $19 million in fines and forfeiture as part of a plea agreement that was announced yesterday on two misdemeanor counts for shipping contaminated ice cream, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Former CEO Paul Kruse was charged with seven felonies for allegedly concealing what the company knew about the listeria contamination. The case was filed in a federal court in Austin, Texas.

Kruse’s lawyer, Chris Flood, said his client is innocent and that he and other Blue Bell employees “did the best they could with the information they had at the time.”

The company said in a statement that it “learned hard lessons” from the outbreak and that food safety is its “highest priority.”

The charges stem from a listeria contamination that Blue Bell Creameries told federal inspectors it believed spread through a drainage system at a plant in Oklahoma.

The company, which is based in Brenham, Texas, recalled products after its ice cream was linked to 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.

Blue Bell has a production facility in Sylacauga, Alabama.

Prosecutors said the total sum to be paid by Blue Bell is second largest ever paid in a food-safety case.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

 

Categories: Montgomery, National News, News, On Your Side