Former Blue Bell CEO pleads guilty to 2015 listeria outbreak-related charge

Blue Bell pleads in ice cream listeria case; ex-CEO charged
Posted at 11:44 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 12:50:45-05

BRENHAM, Texas — Former Blue Bell Creameries CEO Paul Kruse has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to his role in the 2015 listeria outbreak that killed three people and caused multiple illnesses across the United States — including Texas.

Kruse has been accused of conspiring to hide the presence of listeria in Blue Bell's products from customers and federal inspectors.

The 2015 listeria outbreak would later result in a nationwide recall of all Blue Bell products, temporarily shutting down the company's facilities.

In 2020, the Department of Justice announced Blue Bell had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing contaminated ice cream products.

This plea resulted in the company paying $19.35 million in fines, forfeitures, and civil penalties.

Blue Bell also agreed to implement a "comprehensive food safety program" and cooperate with ongoing investigations, court records say.

Kruse is the first Blue Bell executive to face criminal charges in connection with this case.

He had been Blue Bell's CEO from 2004 until his retirement in 2017.

His plea agreement will now require him to pay a $100,000 fine, avoiding any potential jail time.

Authorities said they hope this jurisdiction will serve as a "warning" to other food industry companies looking to prioritize profits over public safety.