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Blue Bell Creameries to Plead Guilty, Pay $19.35M for Shipping Contaminated Products

empty courtroom view from judge's seatOn May 1, the U.S. Justice Department announced Blue Bell Creameries pled guilty and agreed to pay $19.35 million for shipping contaminated products that were linked to an outbreak of listeriosis in 2015. The guilty plea covers two misdemeanor counts of distributing ice cream products that had been tampered with.

Blue Bell has also agreed to pay $2.1 million for resolving civil claims related to making ice cream in unsanitary conditions and selling it to federal facilities, which violated the False Claims Act.

The former president of Blue Bell, Paul Kruse, is also facing charges of taking part in a scheme to conceal the outbreak from customers.

According to the Department of Justice, Blue Bell distributed ice cream made in unsanitary conditions and was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, which can be life-threatening.

What Blue Bell Did After Learning of the Outbreak of Listeria

In early 2015, Blue Bell was notified by state officials about two products from a factory in Texas that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

To its credit, Blue Bell took action to remove the remaining two products from store shelves. However, the company did not recall the contaminated products or provide a warning to consumers, even after state officials in Texas discovered listeria in a third product.

Blue Bell did not issue a recall until there were 10 reported cases of listeria in four states. Three of those who were reportedly sick in Kansas ended up dying.

The company released a statement saying the plea deal concerned things that happened five years ago before facilities were closed and revamped. The company also apologized to customers, employees and the communities where they work and live.

The lawyer for former president Kruse said the former president is innocent and he and other employees did the best they possibly could with the information they had back in 2015.

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