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Trial of Blue Bell Creamery Ex-CEO Commences


The criminal trial of Paul Kruse commenced on Monday, July 25th in the Federal Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.  Kruse was indicted in 2020 after a five-year investigation into cases of listeriosis, attributed to Blue Bell ice cream, manufactured in either Texas or Oklahoma plants operated by the Company, both of which yielded the pathogen.


Blue Bell Creamery pleaded guilty in 2020 to two counts of distributing adulterated food products and paid a criminal penalty of $17.5 million in addition to $2.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations following shipments of ice cream to military commissaries.


The case was preceded by a blizzard of defense motions. Attorneys for Kruse are attempting to bar the prosecution from presenting evidence that Blue Bell delayed recall of products after knowing the potential for contamination and to bar presentation of documentation regarding alleged sanitation issues.  Judge Robert Pittman has yet to rule on defense motions that, if granted, would restrict the scope of evidence to be presented to the jury.


The case is somewhat reminiscent of the trial of the Parnell Brothers, responsible for an extensive outbreak of salmonellosis attributed to products packed and distributed by their company, the Peanut Corporation of America.  The United States v. Paul Kruse has implications for CEOs and officers of all food producers since it will reinforce case law that will be applicable to egg, broiler and turkey producers in the event of foodborne disease outbreaks where negligence or fraudulent claims of wholesomeness are made.