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September 17, 2020: Blue Bell Creameries Ordered To Pay $17.25 Million In Criminal Penalties Following 2015 Listeria Outbreak

Ice cream manufacturer, Blue Bell Creameries L.P., has been ordered by a federal court in Texas to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for shipping Listeria contaminated products linked to a deadly 2015 listeriosis outbreak.

In May 2020, Blue Bell Creameries pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products.  The $17.25 million fine is the largest criminal penalty imposed following a conviction in a food safety case, and was reported by the Justice Department to be consistent with the terms of a please agreement previous filed in the case.

“American consumers must be able to trust that the foods they purchase are safe to eat,” said an Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The sentence imposed today sends a clear message to food manufacturers that the Department of Justice will take appropriate actions when contaminated food products endanger consumers.”

The plea agreement and criminal information filed against Blue Bell allege that the company distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under insanitary conditions and contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. 

Blue Bell Listeria Outbreak – The Final Case Count

Although Blue Bell was first notified by public health officials in February 2015 that its ice cream had tested positive for the presence of Listeria, the company did not issue a product recall until March 2015, after the FDA and CDC linked contaminated Blue Bell ice cream to five listeriosis cases in Kansas.

In its final outbreak update, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a total of 10 people with listeriosis related to the Blue Bell ice cream Listeria outbreak were reported from 4 states: Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). All ill people were hospitalized. Three deaths were reported from Kansas (3).

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