DOJ Investigating Blue Bell Listeria Outbreak, Could Result In Criminal Charges

Is it a crime to knowingly ship food to customers that may be contaminated with deadly foodborne pathogens? Earlier this year, executives from the Peanut Corporation of America were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in an outbreak that made thousands of people sick, killing nine. The beloved ice cream brand Blue Bell may be back on store shelves, but federal investigators are currently asking whether anyone should be held criminally responsible.

CBS reports that the Department of Justice has started to investigate the company, trying to determine what the company’s leaders knew and when they knew it. Front-line workers told reporters that they had tried to call bosses’ attention to unsanitary and potentially unsafe conditions, including water leaks onto ice cream processing equipment.

An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year turned up evidence that the company found Listeria bacteria on surfaces in the plant, but elected not to do anything about it and kept the ice cream lines churning.

Dept. of Justice investigating Blue Bell for deadly Listeria outbreak [CBS]