A Texas-based ice cream manufacturer will plead guilty to charges of distributing contaminated ice cream products and pay $19.35 million in fine, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments, which the Justice Department said is the second-highest amount ever paid to resolve a food safety matter.

In addition, Blue Bell Creameries L.P.'s former president has been charged “in connection with a scheme to cover up the incident,” the Department of Justice said.

Blue Bell agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products with an associated fine and forfeiture totaling $17.25 million, with an additional $2.1 million to be paid to resolve civil allegations “regarding ice cream products manufactured under insanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities.”

According to the plea agreement, Blue Bell was notified in February 2015 about two ice cream products from its Brenham, Texas, factory testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Blue Bell worked to remove remaining stock of the two products from store shelves, but “did not recall the products or issue any formal communication to inform customers about the potential listeria contamination,” nor did the company do so after being informed of a positive test on a third product. Recalls were eventually announced in March 2015.

DOJ says Paul Kruse, the company’s former president, has been charged with seven felony counts “related to his alleged efforts to conceal from customers what the company knew about the listeria contamination.”  

In a statement, Blue Bell acknowledged “our agreement with the government reflects that we should have handled many things differently and better. We apologize to everyone who was impacted, including our customers, our employees and the communities where we live and work.”

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