(CBSDFW.COM) – Blue Bell Creameries has been ordered to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties after the Texas-based company pleaded guilty to shipping contaminated products.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the decision from a federal court in Texas Thursday, saying this comes after the shipments were linked to the 2015 listeriosis outbreak.
Blue Bell pleaded guilty in May 2020 to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products.
The $17.25 million criminal penalty is the largest ever for a conviction in a food safety case, the Justice Department said.
“American consumers must be able to trust that the foods they purchase are safe to eat,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The sentence imposed today sends a clear message to food manufacturers that the Department of Justice will take appropriate actions when contaminated food products endanger consumers.”
According to court documents, Blue Bell was notified in February 2015 that two samples of ice cream products from its factory in Brenham, Texas had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
The company directed delivery drivers to remove remaining stock of the two products from store shelves but did not issue a recall or any communication with customers, according to court documents.
In a plea agreement filed in the case, inspections from the Food and Drug Administration in March and April 2015 revealed sanitation issues at the Brenham and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma facilities.