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Blue Bell must pay $17.25 million in 2015 listeria case

Blue Bell must pay $17.25 million in 2015 listeria case

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Blue Bell Creameries has been ordered to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties in connection to a 2015 listeria outbreak, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.

The Brenham-based company pleaded guilty in May to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products. The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin was consistent with the terms of the plea agreement, a press release stated. The fine and forfeiture amount is the largest criminal penalty following a conviction in a food safety case.

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, a press release states. According to the plea agreement, Texas state officials notified Blue Bell in February 2015 that samples of two ice cream products from the company’s Brenham factory tested positive for listeria. Blue Bell directed its delivery route drivers to remove remaining stock of the two products from store shelves, but the company did not recall the products or issue any formal communication to inform customers about the potential listeria contamination.

“Today we are a new, different and better Blue Bell. Our agreement with the government involves events that took place five years ago before we shut down and revamped our production facilities and procedures,” a statement sent by Blue Bell Creameries after the May plea agreement reads. “Since resuming production in the summer of 2015, we test our ice cream and deliver it to stores only after independent tests confirm it is safe.”

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