BLUE BELL EMPLOYEES TESTIFY IN PAUL KRUSE TRIAL

  
Paul Kruse

Testimony this week during the trial of Paul Kruse indicated that the former president and CEO of Blue Bell Creameries was aware of problems with listeria before the company moved to recall all of its ice cream products in 2015.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Andy Kollman, former quality control manager at Blue Bell’s Brenham location, testified on Monday that he informed executives in 2014 of “elevated counts” of bacteria, and that the problem needed to be resolved before the company got in trouble.

In 2011, Kollman told Kruse a sample of ice cream that had been released to the public had tested positive for listeria.  Kollman said Kruse became angry with him upon receiving the lab results, telling Kollman to discontinue the testing program.

Kruse’s attorney, Chris Flood, said Kruse was upset because the product had already been made available to the public, not because listeria was discovered.  Kollman stated Kruse had said before that instead of utilizing reactive testing, he wanted employees to use proactive sanitation measures.

While Kollman said he was never ordered to get rid of the positive lab test, fellow Blue Bell employee Stacy Eckert said she shredded paper copies and deleted the electronic copy.

The employees who testified did so as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice so they would not be prosecuted.

Kruse faces federal conspiracy and fraud charges.  Blue Bell pleaded guilty separately in 2020 to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The company paid a total of $19.35 million in fines, forfeitures and civil settlement payments, the second-largest amount ever paid in resolution of a food safety matter.

Closing arguments were heard on Tuesday.  The jury now begins deliberations.

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23 Comments

  1. This lawsuit breaks my heart. I feel the employees who testified would have “told the truth” whether they were given the option of granting them freedom of not being prosecuted or not. I have known both personally for years. They are outstanding citizens. Have strong work ethics. This lawsuit has weighted heavy on many hearts. BlueBell has been tarnished due to this lawsuit. May God continue to watch over all those involved. May the families who have lost loved ones feel peace and understanding.

  2. I would thank, that any product such as Ice Cream that contains Milk and Eggs, is almost always going to contain Bacteria.. Also as a former Hospital Employee, it likely the Ice Cream served to Hospital Patients, was allowed to reach a temperature that would allow Bacteria to grow, while the food trays were awaiting delivery to patients. The Ice Cream in question, could have Ben allowed to somewhat melt, and then been refrozen. Lots of hands on that Ice Cream after it left Brenham.

  3. He was the fall guy. There is always a fall guy.
    Did he know? yes.
    Was he the only one calling the shots? hell no.

  4. Thank you Mr. Kollman for doing your job, which is protecting consumers. Having many years of experience in quality control of food for public consumption, I know how it should work. You were paid to report any negative findings to your supervisor, and it was their responsibility to take the appropriate measures to protect consumers. To think otherwise is foolish. If you can’t take the heat ( responsibility), then you should not be in the “ kitchen”.
    Consumers should be grateful that our government is protecting our food supply. People forget that it is job of government to serve and protect the public, NOT business. We are, a government “ of, by, and for the people”.

  5. Reading some of these comments is very disturbing. Having went to high school with Andy Kollman, it is really upsetting to see some people insinuating these sort of things (i.e. just did it to protect himself, etc.). He is a decent “country kid”. Someone that sat next to you in Ag class. Anyone who knows him would be a character witness in court. I certainly would be. People should really watch out about writing these sorts of things about someone they don’t even know. Ever heard of the term “libel”?

    1. Just to be clear, in my comment below, I never mentioned a specific employee or person who testified, but instead made a general statement about the credibility of someone whose sole reason to testify is to protect themselves. I find it very hard to believe that testimony solicited from someone who “cut a deal” to avoid prosecution themselves can be considered unbiased. The fact of the matter is that I do not know the person being discussed above, nor do I know Paul Kruse or anyone else associated with this trial. By definition, that makes me an unbiased observer. However, I am deeply suspicious of testimony that allows someone to avoid prosecution themselves at the expense of someone else. To hold a genuine personal opinion about this type of testimony is absolutely not LIBEL, instead it is the question that every reasonable thinking person should be asking themselves.

    2. Andy is a good guy and doing what he has to. Paul is a good guy who was running a company and had to make decisions quickly that would impact a lot of things. He may have made some wrong decisions but he’s not a criminal. This case is all about trumped up charges made by a government bureaucracy whose goals are always to destroy people and to make themselves look like great saviors all the while pushing their special interest agendas. These same people can enter anyones life and destroy them. That’s what is scary.

  6. Before y’all judge, this man had a lot on his shoulders, shut the plant down and send half of Brenham home without a job, the same people he goes to church with and shops at heb with, tell shareholders they aren’t getting returns, he was not the only person that knew of an issue, nor was he the only person that could have fixed it

  7. I believe employees testifying are being honest. And honestly, they may not be in that position if things were handled differently. But I wonder if Paul would have wanted to make changes to the plants, if the board would have approved it. Though he was the president, he still had to get approval for large changes from the board.

    I feel like they just used him as the escape goat.

    Things were handled poorly all the way around.

    1. He was the fall guy. There is always a fall guy.
      Did he know? yes.
      Was he the only one calling the shots? hell no.

      1. Agreed!!

        He isn’t the only one with egg on his face. But I’m curious if those will also be called to testify against him too?

  8. Mr. Kruse was running a for profit ice cream business and like all businesses it’s competitive to keep profit margins high as possible. Listeria is very common in cold foods. So question who authorized ice cream to sick people? Diarrhea is a common side effect of Listeria but so is some bacteria in drinking water and under cooked food. So not to defend Mr.Kruse because he made a bad call but I don ‘t think he was by himself and I believe there were multiple bad calls and their given a free pass is disgusting. First off Lab guy has the authority to not let contamination in the products out the door if he is doing his job. He should have had the spine to shut the operation down till it reached acceptable levels it’s his job. Now if Mr. Kruse or anyone else stopped him well that criminal.

    1. That’s the whole point. Andy Kollman DID blow the whistle and let Paul Kruse know that Blue Bell products were contaminated with listeria. Once he knew about the problem, Kruse chose to end the testing program instead of address the contamination that KILLED 3 PEOPLE. That was a CHOICE. No human being should be sacrificed for private profit. Would YOU volunteer? Would anyone? THREE PEOPLE ARE DEAD AND YOU”RE TALKING ABOUT PROFIT MARGINS.

  9. Honestly, how much of this was his fault?
    Because he was the man in charge?
    If he stopped producing sooner, was that soon enough, or was it too late anyhow?
    I know if my Grandmother or Father died because of bad ice cream, I would want justice as well.
    But, is he directly responsible?
    Is it years of needed upgrades that were a company wide issue?
    If so, didn’t they already settle?
    Is this more overreach by the government, more money for All of the Lawyer’s?
    I hope that it works out as best it can for the parties involved on both sides.

    1. Honestly, how much of this was his fault?
      *All of it. He was the man at the top who knew the problem, ended the testing that discovered the problem.

      Because he was the man in charge?
      *YES

      If he stopped producing sooner, was that soon enough, or was it too late anyhow?
      *Andy Kollman alerted Paul Kruse to listeria problems in 2011. Instead of acting, Kruse chose to end testing. Problem (Not) Solved (but swept under the rug for a few years)!

      I know if my Grandmother or Father died because of bad ice cream, I would want justice as well.
      But, is he directly responsible?

      YES. See above answers for answer to this repeated question.

  10. I think could be Kollman’s and all that has gotten to together words against Mr. Kruse. Just like the others since there’s been rumors around this town of the jealousy of Mr Kruse that’s worked there. I’ve known office people from yrs. to before this quit because of the bad office conditions and it wasn’t from Mr Kruse causing dysfunctional ethics.

  11. “The employees who testified did so as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice so they would not be prosecuted.” When someone is motivated to testify as a means of protecting themselves, I have to question the credibility of their testimony. The company has paid a $19 million dollar fine, settled cases with the “victims” who were already were dealing with health issues, and then spent many more millions updating and improving plants, processes, and equipment. This prosecution seems to be over the top and unneeded. I really question the motives of this prosecution.

    P.S. I am not, nor I have I have been employed at Blue Bell, and I do not know Paul Kruse. Just a citizen that sees our government as getting more and more intrusive into the lives of citizens.

    1. In this world , criminals have more rights than victims . They will throw him under the prison and release murderers , rapist and thieves the same day

    2. Why do you put the word “victims” in quotes? A person who becomes ill from eating food contaminated with listeria is a victim. People died eating a Blue Bell product. When you die or become severly ill, you certainly are a victim of someone’s mismanagement.

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