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Ex-Blue Bell CEO Avoids Jail for Deadly 2014 Outbreak

April 16, 2023
After mistrial, plea deal fines Paul Kruse $100,000 for a federal misdemeanor.

The former CEO of Blue Bell Creameries pleaded guilty at the end of March to a federal misdemeanor and was fined $100,000 for allowing adulterated ice cream onto the market, which created a deadly listeria outbreak eight years ago.

Paul Kruse initially was charged with felony wire fraud and conspiracy for the 2014-2015  incident. However, his trial last summer on those charges ended in a mistrial when jurors could not agree on a verdict after four days of deliberation. A retrial had been set for this month in federal court in Austin, Texas.

Under this current plea deal with the U.S. Justice Dept., Kruse would serve no prison time, and the government dismissed five fraud charges against him.

Between 2014 and early 2015, at least 10 people became ill after eating Blue Bell ice cream and three people died from listeria in the ice cream, according to investigators. An FDA investigation found numerous violations at several Blue Bell plants and said management, all the way up to Kruse, was aware of the problems.

In 2020, a U.S. District judge ordered the company to pay $19.25 million in criminal penalties for the outbreak that forced Blue Bell to recall all its products. Kruse is no longer with the company.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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