A federal court in Texas has ordered Blue Bell Creameries to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for the 2015 listeriosis outbreak. It is the largest-ever criminal penalty following a conviction in a food safety case.
Blue Bell pleaded guilty in May to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas imposed the sentence which lined up with a plea agreement previously filed in the case.
In March 2015, tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked the strain of Listeria in one of the Blue Bell ice cream products to a strain that sickened five patients at a Kansas hospital with listeriosis, the severe illness caused by ingestion of Listeria-contaminated food.
The FDA, CDC, and Blue Bell all issued public recall notifications on March 13, 2015. Subsequent tests confirmed Listeria contamination in a product made at another Blue Bell facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which led to a second recall announcement on March 23, 2015.