In September 2015, Blue Bell Creameries recalled cookie dough ice cream due to Listeria. In April 2015, Blue Bell Creameries recalled all ice cream products due to Listeria after 10 people were infected in four states, including three people who died.
What You Can Do & How We Can Help
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know was diagnosed with Listeria after eating Blue Bell ice cream, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Food Poisoning Litigation Group or call us toll-free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
UPDATE: Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse Charged in Criminal Conspiracy to Cover-Up Listeria Outbreak
On October 21, 2020, the Department of Justice announced that a Texas grand jury had charged former Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse with a criminal conspiracy to cover up the company’s deadly 2015 Listeria outbreak.
In February 2015, after Texas health officials notified Blue Bell of finding Listeria in Blue Bell ice cream, Kruse allegedly had employees pull potentially contaminated products out of store freezers without telling stores or customers the real reason.
Kruse also allegedly told employees, if asked, to say there was an “issue with a manufacturing machine.” Blue Bell did not immediately issue a recall or any formal communication regarding the Listeria contamination.
Blue Bell Pays $20 Million in Fines for Shipping Ice Cream After Listeria Outbreak
In May 2020, Blue Bell Creameries was ordered to pay nearly $20 million in fines, forfeiture, and settlement payouts, which the Justice Department says is the 2nd-largest fine ever paid for a food safety issue.
The fines include $17.25 million in criminal fines for shipping ice cream that it knew was tainted with Listeria.
Former Blue Bell CEO Charged in Listeria Outbreak Cover-Up
Paul Kruse, the company’s former president, was charged with 7 felony counts “related to his alleged efforts to conceal from customers what the company knew about the listeria contamination.”
Blue Bell was notified in February 2015 about 2 ice cream products from its Brenham, Texas, factory that tested positive for Listeria. Blue Bell removed the 2 products from stores, but did not issue a recall or warn customers about the risk.
After a 3rd product tested positive for Listeria, Blue Bell also failed to issue a recall or warn customers. Recalls were eventually announced in March 2015.
The Justice Department also ordered an additional $2.1 million fine to resolve civil allegations “regarding ice cream products manufactured under insanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities.”
RECALL: Blue Bell Cookie Dough Ice Cream
On September 20, 2016, Blue Bell recalled two flavors of cookie dough ice cream that may be contaminated with Listeria. No illnesses were reported.
On October 10, 2016, Blue Bell expanded the recall to include 3-gallon cartons of three more flavors of ice cream that were made with the tainted cookie dough between February 2, 2016 and September 7, 2016.
The problem was blamed on Aspen Hills, Inc., a third-party cookie dough supplier. However, Aspen Hills said the cookie dough tested negative for Listeria before it was shipped, and only tested positive after it had been at Blue Bell for nearly two months.
The recalled ice cream products include:
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough — 1/2-gallons and pints
- Cookie Two Step — 1/2-gallons and pints
- Blue Monster — 3-gallon
- Chocolate Chip Cookie — 3-gallon
- Krazy Kookie Dough — 3-gallon
The ice cream was produced from February 2 through September 7, 2016 and distributed in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Blue Bell Returns to the Market
Blue Bell began resumed ice cream production in July 2015 with test-runs at a facility in Alabama. By August 11, the first shipments were on the road. Blue Bell initiated a “test and hold” program, which requires that finished product samples test negative for Listeria. Unfortunately, problems have persisted. In January 2016, Listeria was again detected in a facility, but not in the ice cream. Former employees also reported unsanitary conditions.
When Were Problems Discovered?
Listeria contamination was discovered at Blue Bell Creameries in March 2013. One facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma had 17 positive Listeria tests since 2013, but Blue Bell never bothered to tell the FDA or test the ice cream itself for contamination.
On at least six occasions, health inspectors found hygiene issues at a Blue Bell ice cream facility in Sycaugua, Alabama as early as 2011. In June 2015, ice cream produced in Alabama tested positive for Listeria. Before the ice cream could return to store shelves, Blue Bell and the Alabama Department of Public Health agreed to a plan to ensure it was Listeria-free.
Blue Bell Lawsuit Settlement
If executives at Blue Bell knew about Listeria contamination and failed to take appropriate steps to correct the problem, they could face criminal charges jail time, government fines, and lawsuits accusing the company of negligence. In May 2015, a lawsuit (PDF) was filed by a David Shockley, a man who nearly died from meningitis after eating Listeria-tainted ice cream made by Blue Bell. In September 2016, both sides reached a confidential settlement.
Deadly Listeria Outbreak Linked to Blue Bell
In March 2015, the Kansas Department of Health confirmed that five patients who ate Blue Bell ice cream at a hospital in Kansas were diagnosed with listeriosis, including three patients who died. The CDC investigated the outbreak and confirmed that Blue Bell ice cream contained a highly-similar, rare strain of Listeria that also infected the hospital patients in Kansas.
Blue Bell Issues 1st Ice Cream Recall
In April 2015, Blue Bell issued a recall for the first time in its 108-year history. The recall included 3-oz single-serving products that were only supplied to the food service industry and hospitals.
The same strain of Listeria was found at a production facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and in a sample of chocolate ice cream collected at the Kansas hospital. Blue Bell expanded the recall and shut down the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma facility.
CDC Reports 10 Infections, 3 Deaths
On April 21, 2015, Blue Bell has recalled all ice cream from all production facilities after Listeria was found in two half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The CDC reported 10 Listeria infections in Kansas (5), Texas (3), Arizona (1), and Oklahoma (1) have been linked to Blue Bell ice cream since 2010.
Listeria Found in Blue Bell Ice Cream Produced in Texas
This is not the first time Listeria has been found in Blue Bell ice cream. In February 2015, the South Carolina health department discovered seven different rare strains of Listeria in products that were distributed to the state. Those products were traced back to a production facility in Brenham, Texas.
Listeria and Ice Cream
Health officials say ice cream as a whole does not pose a special food poisoning risk. However, there are many reasons why Listeria is nearly impossible to eradicate from a cold-food processing facility. Listeria is very common in the environment and it likes to grow in cold and wet places. It thrives at refrigeration temperatures and survives freezing. It also commonly causes mastitis in cows, which is why unpasteurized milk is frequently contaminated.
What is Listeria Food Poisoning?
Listeriosis is a severe type of food poisoning caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that is commonly found in soil and water. Dairy products, including ice cream, can be contaminated when milk is used from cows that are infected with the bacteria. According to the FDA:
“Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.”
Blue Bell Ice Cream Class Action
Our law firm is nationally recognized as a class action firm, but attorneys are not filing a Blue Bell ice cream class action. Instead, we are filing individual lawsuits and only accepting cases involving people who were diagnosed with Listeria after consuming recalled products.
Do I have a Blue Bell Ice Cream Lawsuit?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting food poisoning cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know was diagnosed with Listeria after eating Blue Bell ice cream, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Food Poisoning Litigation Group or call us toll-free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
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