Former Blue Bell president charged in connection with 2015 listeria outbreak
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday (Oct. 21) announced that the former president of ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries L.P. faces criminal charges in connection with a listeria outbreak in 2015 that led to several illnesses and three deaths. A Texas Grand Jury charged former Blue Bell president Paul Kruse with wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with an alleged scheme to cover up the company’s sales of listeria-tainted ice cream.
In an indictment filed in federal court in Austin, Texas, Kruse was charged with seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The indictment accuses Kruse of knowing about the listeria contamination in certain Bleu Bell products, including products sold in Kansas.
“Listeria monocytogenes, a dangerous pathogen that can lead to serious illness or death in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Kruse allegedly orchestrated a scheme to deceive certain Blue Bell customers, including by directing employees to remove potentially contaminated products from store freezers without notifying retailers or consumers about the real reason for the withdrawal,” the justice department explained.
The charges against Kruse come about a month after Blue Bell was fined more than $17 million for the 2015 listeria outbreak. The justice department said the company did not recall products or issue any formal communication to let customers know about the potential listeria contamination.
“U.S. consumers rely on food producers and suppliers to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply. The charges announced today show that if an individual violates food safety rules or conceals relevant information, we will seek to hold them accountable,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who jeopardize public health.”
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