Blue Bell Creameries was officially sentenced today to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for the 2015 deadly listeria outbreak. Blue Bell plead guilty in May to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products. Today, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin sentenced the company to pay the fine agreed to in the plea agreement. The $17.25 million fine and forfeiture amount is the largest-ever criminal penalty following a conviction in a food safety case, according to the Justice Department.
Blue Bell’s former CEO Paul Kruse was separately charged in May with criminal conspiracy. Those charges were dismissed by Pitman in July. The charges against Kruse were dismissed because he did not waive his right to be indicted by a grand jury, which prosecutors did not seek due to COVID-19. Paul Kruse, who retired in 2017, was facing felony charges alleging that he directed a conspiracy to conceal unsanitary conditions and the deadly listeria outbreak.
Blue Bell shut down all ice-cream production in 2015, and redesigned their plants to prevent future listeria contamination of their products. All products are now tested prior to shipment for listeria.