Update: Blue Bell Pleads Guilty in 2015 Listeria Case, Former President Charged With Conspiracy
Blue Bell Creameries L.P., has pleaded guilty to charges that in 2015, it shipped contaminated products that were linked to a listeria outbreak, according to the Times Record News. The U.S. Justice Department said Blue Bell's former president was also charged with conspiracy for attempting to cover up the incident.
As part of a plea agreement, Blue Bell will plead guilty to 2 misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice-cream products, and the company must pay $17.25 million in fines. Blue Bell also agreed to pay an additional $2.1 million to resolve civil False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream manufactured in unsanitary conditions.
The nearly $20 million penalty is the second largest amount paid in resolution of a food-safety matter, according to the DOJ.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Recalled Over Potential Listeria Contamination
Blue Bell Creameries of Brenham, TX, is recalling more than 8 million gallons of ice cream products over potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that causes severe foodborne illness. At least 10 listeria infections -- including 3 deaths -- have been linked to Blue Bell ice cream.
On March 13, 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was investigating an outbreak of listeria infections potentially linked to Blue Bell Creameries single serving ice cream products.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), 5 patients who were treated at the same Wichita hospital were infected with 1 of 4 rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. Three of the strains were found in ice cream products produced at the Blue Bell Creameries plant in Brenham, TX. Illness onset dates range from Jan. 2014 to Jan. 2015.
FDA was notified that these 3 strains and 4 other rare strains of listeria were found in samples of Blue Bell single serving Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich and the Great Divide Bar ice cream products collected by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (SCDHEC) on Feb. 12, 2015. These products were produced at Blue Bell’s Brenham facility.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) collected samples from the facility and found listeria in the same products tested by SCDHEC, as well as a third single-serving ice cream product, Scoops, which is made on the same production line.
Hospital records for 4 patients show that all were served Blue Bell ice cream made from these products. Blue Bell Creameries distributes ice cream to the hospital, although it has not been confirmed whether the facility only receives ice cream from the Brenham plant.
Of the 5 listeria infections, 3 deaths were reported. Blue Bell Creameries has removed the affected products by picking them up directly from the retailers and hospitals it serves. The company has also shut down the production line where the ice cream was made.
Which Products are Affected?
- Chocolate Chip Country Cookie - SKU # 196
- Great Divide Bar - SKU #108
- Sour Pop Green Apple Bar - SKU #221
- Cotton Candy Bar - SKU #216
- Scoops - SKU #117
- Vanilla Stick Slices - SKU #964
- Almond Bars - SKU #156
- 6 pack Cotton Candy Bars - SKU #245
- 6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars - SKU #249
- 12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars - SKU #343
If you have any of these products in your possession, you should wrap them in a plastic bag and discard them immediately.
No Listeria in Cookie Dough Before Going to Blue Bell: Supplier
A supplier of cookie dough linked to a listeria outbreak has said that its product tested negative for the bacteria before it was sent to Blue Bell Creameries.
Blue Bell announced last Wednesday that it was recalling select flavors of ice cream produced at its facility in Sylacauga, Alabama, after finding chocolate chip cookie dough from a 3rd party supplier -- Aspen Hills Inc. -- may have been contaminated with listeria monocytogenes. Blue Bell stated the next day that it stood by its test results which identified listeria in the cookie dough from Aspen Hills.
However, Aspen Hills maintains that the product tested negative for listeria before it was shipped to Blue Bell, and that the "positive listeria results were obtained by Blue Bell only after our product had been in their control for almost two months."
Aspen Hills also said that Blue Bell is the only customer that received the cookie dough affected by a separate recall it issued.
Blue Bell countered in a follow-up email by saying that the boxes of cookie dough it tested from Aspen Hills were unopened, and tests conducted by both Blue Bell and an independent laboratory confirmed the presence of listeria. Blue Bell also said the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) conducted subsequent testing which confirmed the results.
In April 2015, Blue Bell recalled all of its ice cream products over a listeria outbreak that caused at least 10 serious infections -- including 3 deaths -- in 4 U.S. states. The company resumed production about 4 months later after implementing new cleaning procedures, testing programs and employee training at its facilities.
Texas Woman Sues Blue Bell Creameries Over 2015 Listeria Outbreak
April 25, 2017 - A woman from Galveston, Texas, has filed a lawsuit against Blue Bell Creameries alleging that she and her daughter contracted a listeria infection after eating Blue Bell ice cream.
According to the lawsuit, Plaintiff Ursula Burton bought Blue Bell ice cream from a Valero gas station in April 2015, and that both she and her daughter became violently ill after eating it.
“As a result of eating the contaminated Blue Bell ice cream, plaintiff Ursula Burton was diagnosed with listeriosis,” the complaint states.
Burton also claims that as a result of her illness she is now lactose intolerant, and that her daughter has developed a sensitivity to dairy products.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced in March 2015 that it was investigating an outbreak of listeria infections linked to ice cream produced at the Blue Bell Creameries plant in Brenham, Texas.
According to health officials, at least 5 patients who were treated at the same Wichita hospital were infected with 1 of 4 rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. Three of the strains were found in ice cream products produced at the Brenham facility.
Of the infections, 3 deaths were reported. Blue Bell Creameries removed the affected products by picking them up directly from the retailers and hospitals it serves. The company also shut down the production line where the ice cream was made.
Burton is seeking $200,000 to $1 million in damages for pain and suffering, anguish, medical expenses, and damages from physical impairment and lost wages.
Blue Bell Again Recalls Ice Cream Over Listeria Concerns
September 21, 2016 - Blue Bell Creameries is recalling packages of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream because they may be contaminated with listeria, according to an FDA Safety Alert issued today. These products were distributed in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. FDA is warning consumers not to eat any recalled Blue Bell ice cream products, and to return them to the point of purchase for a full refund.
More Blue Bull Ice Cream Tests Positive for Listeria
April 9: The outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream has grown to at least 8 listeria infections, including 3 elderly people who died in a Kansas hospital, according to the CDC. On Tuesday, the FDA announced that Blue Bell had expanded its recall to include Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints and other items that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The products were produced at Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Okla., on Feb. 12.
Recall Expanded to Include All Products Sold Nationwide & Overseas
Blue Bell Creameries, which issued a recall last month for some of its ice cream products after several people fell ill with listeriosis, has expanded the action to include all of its ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and other frozen snacks.
Multi-State Listeria Outbreak Linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream
April 21, 2015 - Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president, said the company is "heartbroken" over the need to recall all of its products from store shelves nationwide. Another potential health risk was identified in half gallon containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream (UPC# 0 71899-03720 0), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“At every step, we have made decisions in the best interest of our customers based on the evidence we had available at the time,” Kruse said in a press release. “At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities and so we have taken this unprecedented step. We continue to work with our team of experts to eliminate this problem.”
Blue Bell said retailers around the country have been instructed to stop selling the products. If you have any Blue Bell ice cream, you should discard it immediately or return it to where you purchased it for a full refund.
8 Infections, 3 Dead
At least 8 people in 2 different clusters have developed listeria infections linked to Blue Bell ice cream, according to the CDC. Three people have died.
The illnesses were first reported in 5 patients at a Kansas hospital, and 3 others at a hospital in Texas. All of the patients had eaten Blue Bell ice cream before falling ill.
Ice Cream 'Unlikely' Source of Listeria Contamination
Christopher Waldrop, Director of Food Policy for the Consumer Federation of America, said that ice cream recalls are relatively unusual. “For most pathogens, when you freeze the food it substantially lowers the growth of the pathogen," he said. "For example if you have chicken or ground beef that happens to have pathogens in it and you freeze it, that really slows or stops the growth of the pathogens while they’re in the freezer.”
However, with listeria this isn't the case. Unlike salmonella or E. coli, listeria can thrive and even reproduce in freezing temperatures. This makes the bacteria well suited for transfer in ice cream, which is otherwise an unlikely source of foodborne contamination.
10 Illnesses Linked to Ice Cream Recall: CDC
April 22: One person from Arizona and another from Oklahoma have been diagnosed with a strain of listeria that matches samples taken from Blue Bell ice cream, according to USA Today. The new cases bring the number of infections linked to Blue Bell products to 10.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Recall
April 23 - Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Columbus, OH, is recalling all of its ice cream, frozen yogurts, sorbets and ice cream sandwiches due to potential contamination with listeria. Affected products were distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts and grocery markets, as well as sold online.
Listeria Found at Blue Bell Ice Cream Plant in 2013: FDA
May 7 - Blue Bell Creameries had evidence of listeria contamination in its Oklahoma manufacturing plant as far back as March 2013 but failed to improve its sanitation programs, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The outbreak, which has been linked to 3 deaths, forced Blue Bell to recall all of its ice cream products last month.
FDA released reports on its findings from inspections at Blue Bell plants in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama, and found at least 5 samples in "non-food contact" areas in its Oklahoma facility that tested positive for listeria monocytogenes. The report indicated that Blue Bell’s response to the problem had failed to eliminate the bacteria, and that samples from the plant continued to test positive for it in 2014 and 2015.
"You failed to demonstrate that your cleaning and sanitizing program is effective in controlling recurring microbial contaminations," FDA said in the report.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Lawsuit Filed in Texas
May 28 - A Houston man who claims he “damn near died” from listeria poisoning after consuming Blue Bell products filed a lawsuit against the company this week. According to the complaint, 32-year-old David Philip Shockley “developed a severe listeriosis infection” after eating the ice cream, which caused “extensive damage, leaving him unconscious and near death.”
On May 7, the FDA released findings from inspections at Blue Bell facilities in:
On May, 20, the agency released inspectional observations of Blue Bell plants in:
- Brenham, Texas in 2009 (PDF)
- Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 2012 (PDF)
- Houston, Texas in 2007 (PDF)
- San Antonio, Texas in 2014 (PDF)
CDC Investigation Ends
June 16, 2015 - An investigation into a listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream that affected at least 10 people -- including 3 who died -- has ended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although the investigation is over, officials warn that Blue Bell ice cream can still make you sick.
"This outbreak investigation is over. However, people could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be in people's freezers and consumers unaware of the recalls could eat them,” CDC said. “Institutions should not serve and retailers should not sell recalled products. Read the Advice to Consumers, Institutions, and Retailers."
On April 20, Blue Bell recalled all of its products including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. On June 9, the company announced that it had provided the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with a list of corrective actions being taken at its plants in Brenham, Texas; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Sylacauga, Alabama.
“We hope our efforts demonstrate the seriousness with which we are taking this situation, as well as our commitment to making sure we get this right,” said Blue Bell President and CEO Paul Kruse. “We are committed to seeing this plan through and to working with the F.D.A. each step of the way."
Listeria Found in Alabama Blue Bell Ice Cream Plant
June 8, 2015 - Blue Bell Creameries is reviewing a report of potential listeria contamination in a carton of ice cream produced at its facility in Sylacauga, Alabama.
Tests done by a private Florida firm show that Blue Bell’s plant in Sylacauga, Ala. produced ice cream contaminated with listeria, the first publicized finding of the deadly bacterium outside Texas and Oklahoma.
Blue Bell recalled all of its products on April 21 after tests found listeria in ice cream made at its Brenham, TX and Broken Arrow, OK facilities. The company has maintained that it knew of no positive tests from another smaller plant in Brenham or from the one in Sylacauga. All 4 facilities remain closed indefinitely.
The family of a 75-year-old Florida man – who is not among the 10 listeria cases reported by the CDC – sent a partially eaten container of Blue Bell Cookies ‘n Cream to a lab for testing after he allegedly became severely ill and developed meningitis. The sample came back positive for listeria.
Blue Bell confirmed that the ice cream was produced at its Alabama plant.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Distribution Centers Closing After Listeria Outbreak
June 3, 2015 - Blue Bell Creameries will close 14 distribution centers and lay off more than a third of its workforce following a listeria outbreak that prompted a nationwide recall of its ice cream products.
Blue Bell announced today that 750 full-time employees and 700 part-time workers will be losing their jobs. This represents about 37% of the company’s 3,900 employees.
Another 1,400 workers will be furloughed but still receive a portion of their current pay, Blue Bell said. Employees involved with the ongoing cleanup and repair efforts will continue working for reduce wages. Workers at distribution plants in 10 states will also be laid off.
Blue Bell's production plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama have been closed since the nationwide recall was announced last month. The company's ice cream products have been linked to at least 10 listeria illnesses in 4 states, including 3 deaths at the same Kansas hospital.
Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse called the decision to shut down its plants and lay off employees "agonizing."
"At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future," Kruse said.
The layoffs come after Blue Bell signed agreements with health officials in Texas and Oklahoma detailing steps the company needs to follow before it can resume operations. No timeline has been given for when the company will resume production.
The agreements specify that Blue Bell must inform the states whenever there is a positive test result for listeria in its products or ingredients. The company had failed to tell federal or state health officials of repeated findings of listeria at its Oklahoma plant that date back to 2013.
Blue Bell OKs Listeria Ice Cream Agreement with Alabama Health Officials
June 2, 2015 - Blue Bell Creameries and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) have entered into an agreement outlining a series of actions Blue Bell must take in order to bring its ice cream products safely back to market.
The actions Blue Bell agreed to take include rigorous cleaning procedures, updated testing protocols, revised production policies and upgraded employee training plans to avoid future listeria outbreaks. The agreement with ADPH is similar to one Blue Bell reached with Texas and Oklahoma state health authorities last month, according to CBS News Dallas.
Once the company is ready to resume production, the agreement requires a trial period before Blue Bell ice cream can be distributed.
“We hope that the agreement between Blue Bell and the Alabama Department of Public Health will reassure our customers that we are taking the necessary steps to bring Blue Bell Ice Cream back to the market,” said Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse. “We are committed to making these changes so that we meet the high standards and expectations of our customers and our regulatory agencies. Blue Bell will also continue to work cooperatively and transparently with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
Specific measures to prevent listeria contamination outlined in the agreement include:
- Performing root cause analyses to identify potential or actual sources of the bacteria;
- Hiring independent experts to help establish and review controls to prevent the introduction of listeria;
- Notifying ADPH immediately upon any presumptive positive test result for listeria in ingredients or finished products, and giving health authorities full access to all testing;
- Ensuring that Blue Bell’s Pathogen Monitoring Program for listeria in the plant environment specifies how it will respond to presumptive positive tests for listeria, and
- Instituting a “test and hold” program to assure that products are safe prior to distribution.
“The details of this agreement are very similar to those we’ve made in Texas and Oklahoma,” Kruse said. “This will guide us back to producing the safe high-quality products that Blue Bell is known for. We greatly appreciate the tremendous public support we have received, and we look forward to working with our regulatory agencies and returning to making ice cream as soon as possible.”
Blue Bell Ice Cream Lawsuit Texas
May 28, 2015 - A 32-year-old Houston man who claims he “damn near died” from listeria poisoning after eating Blue Bell ice cream has filed a lawsuit against the Brenham, Texas-based company.
David Philip Shockley worked at a retirement community in 2013 when he “consumed a variety of Blue Bell ice cream products contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes,” according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Austin, TX.
After eating the ice cream, Shockley “developed a severe listeriosis infection,” according to the complaint. “The bacteria infected [his] blood and migrated to his brain, where it caused extensive damage, leaving him unconscious and near death.”
As a result of his illness, Shockley is unable to work and had to move in with his parents to be cared for, the lawsuit alleges.
Shockley’s case is not among the listeria illnesses linked to Blue Bell ice cream in Texas, where a strain of the deadly bacteria found in 3 hospitals matched strains taken from Blue Bell products. At least 10 people in 4 states are confirmed to have developed listeriosis as a result of eating Blue Bell ice cream.
After investigators from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found evidence of listeria contamination at Blue Bell plants in Brenham and in Broken Arrow, Okla., the company recalled all of its products and launched a massive cleanup effort. It has since signed an agreement that calls for more stringent testing before products are shipped out for distribution.
New Listeria Infections Linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream
April 22, 2015 - One person from Arizona and another from Oklahoma have been diagnosed with a strain of listeria that matches samples taken from Blue Bell ice cream, bringing the number of infections linked to the products to 10.
Reports of the new infections came a day after Blue Bell expanded its recall to include all products after 2 samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria.
The company "cannot say with certainty" how the bacteria contaminated its products, Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse said in a press release. The recall affects ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks distributed in 23 states and international locations because other items "have the potential to be contaminated," Kruse said.
3 Dead in Listeria Outbreak Linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream
An outbreak of foodborne illness linked to ice cream products produced by Blue Bell Creameries has grown to at least 8 listeria infections, including 3 people who died.
More Blue Bull Ice Cream Tests Positive for Listeria; Recall Expanded
April 9, 2015 - Three people have died after eating Blue Bell ice cream products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week.
The company recalled ice cream produced at its Oklahoma facility, which it shut down last weekend. At least 8 people were hospitalized for listeria infections in Texas and Kansas, and 3 of them died in a Kansas hospital, according to the CDC. The contamination was tracked to a Blue Bell ice cream production line in Brenham, TX, and later to the company’s plant in Broken Arrow, OK.
The patients in Texas were hospitalized for unrelated health problems when they developed listeriosis after eating Blue Bell 3-ounce ice cream cups produced at the company’s Broken Arrow plant.
Texas Rangers Won’t Sell Blue Bell Ice Cream at Home Games
The Texas Rangers have joined a growing list of companies that are have stopped selling Blue Bell ice cream. According to a statement released by the club this week, “Ice cream will not be available at Globe Life Park during the upcoming home-stand, and Sunday’s Ice Cream Sunday promotion will not take place.”
The Rangers made the decision “in light of recent events and out of an abundance of caution,” according to the statement.
Inspection Finds No Problem at Oklahoma Ice Cream Plant
A state inspection of the Blue Bell ice cream plant in Broken Arrow, OK, found no safety violations, according to Fox News. In a one-page report submitted to The Associated Press in response to an open records request, an inspector wrote "No Violations Observed!" and "Keep it up!" Blue Bell has temporarily closed the Oklahoma facility and shut down its production line in Brenham, TX, where the company is headquartered.
Blue Bell Distribution Centers Closing; 1,450 Employees Laid Off
May 15 – Blue Bell announced today that 750 full-time employees and 700 part-time workers will be losing their jobs, representing about 37% of the company’s 3,900 employees. Another 1,400 workers will be furloughed but still receive a portion of their current pay, Blue Bell said.
What is Listeria Food Poisoning?
When a person develops symptoms after consuming food or liquid that has been contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, the resulting illness is called listeriosis. Only a small percentage of people who ingest listeria bacteria become ill or develop symptoms; however, for those who do, resulting illnesses can be quite severe.
On the mild end of the spectrum, symptoms of listeria infection may include:
- Severe headache
Severe forms of listeriosis can cause:
- Septic shock
Infection during pregnancy can result in:
- Premature labor
- Infection of the newborn
- Neonatal death
According to the CDC, there have been at least 8 outbreaks of Listeria since 2011. Five of the outbreaks have occurred since 2014.
Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was enacted in 2011 to increase cooperation between the FDA and state agencies. Through FSMA, South Carolina health officials discovered the Blue Bell contamination during a routine inspection of a distribution center.
Last month, listeria was found in a sample of Sabra hummus taken from a supermarket and tested by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture discovered the Jeni's contamination. Without combined efforts facilitated through FSMA, the outbreaks could have gone undetected for much longer.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Class Action
For the second time in 18 months, Blue Bell Creameries is recalling ice cream products over potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
Blue Bell issued the recall after a third-party supplier, Aspen Hills Inc., raised alarms about potential listeria contamination in its eggless cookie dough. Products affected by the recall include:
Blue Bell Ice Cream Half Gallons:
- Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - Code Dates: 082618226
- Blue Bell Cookie Two Step - Code Dates: 080418222, 081818224
- Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - Code Dates: 081518242, 082418242
“Blue Bell identified a potential problem through intensified internal testing and notified Aspen Hills,” the company said in a press release. “Aspen Hills then issued a voluntary recall of the products supplied to Blue Bell. Although our products in the marketplace have passed our test and hold program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria monocytogenes, Blue Bell is initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution.”
Do I Have a Blue Bell Ice Cream Lawsuit?
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Blue Bell Ice Cream Recall Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new listeria food poisoning cases in all 50 states.
Free Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one was diagnosed with listeria food poisoning (listeriosis) after eating Blue Bell Ice Cream, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Food Poisoning Suit and our lawyers can help.