Blue Bell fined $17.25 million over 2015 listeria outbreak

$17.25 million fine for Blue Bell over 2015 listeria outbreak

Ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries was fined $17.25 million over a 2015 listeria outbreak that killed three people.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the fine is the largest criminal penalty in a food safety case, KTRK reported.

The company pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products. The fine is part of a previous plea agreement reached in May.

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Listeria-tainted ice cream sickened five people in Kansas leading Blue Bell to recall its ice cream on March 13, 2015, KTRK reported. Listeria also contaminated products made at an Oklahoma facility, prompting a second recall.

The plants were temporarily closed after investigators found issues with cleanliness at facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.

The company has increased sanitation efforts and developed more stringent testing standards before products are put on shelves.

“Today’s court action closes a difficult chapter in Blue Bell’s history," company officials said in a statement. “We are a new, different and better Blue Bell. We learned hard lessons and turned them into determination to make the safest, most delicious ice cream available, with upgraded production facilities, training, safety procedures, and environmental and product testing programs.”