The former CEO of Blue Bell Creameries has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and faces a fine, but the most serious charges against him have been dropped. About three years after Paul Kruse was first indicted for his role in the 2015 listeria outbreak, the former Blue Bell CEO has reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice. Cruise was the head of Blue Bell Creameries when several cases of listeriosis were traced to some of his products.
NHS officials informed the company that samples from its South Carolina facility had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later linked the listeriosis cases to the company’s ice cream products.
Blue Bell issued two product recalls in March 2015, but it was not until late April 2015 that the manufacturer recalled all of its products and closed the factory for disinfection. At the time, the company was accused of failing to inform traders, retailers and the public why it had suddenly started pulling certain products from stores, hospitals and schools.
When current Blue Bell boss Richard Dickson testified at Cruise’s final trial in 2022, he told the court that his then-boss told him “we’re not quite ready” to disclose the situation, which raised questions about Cruise’s role in the settlement, sparking a crisis.
The former chief executive was last tried in August 2022 on five counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. However, the trial ended in miscarriage of justice, with the jury failing to reach a unanimous verdict. A new trial is scheduled for April 2023, but the settlement between Cruise and prosecutors now resolves the case against the former Blue Bell chairman.