At Broken Arrow, OK, Blue Bell Creamery made unlimited ice cream available for the 20th Annual Taste of Summer Festival. And a 13-year-old North Texas girl gave Blue Bell the inspiration for one of its new summer flavors.
Blue Bell has been making news all summer, but hardly any is about the criminal trial of its former president that begins one week in Austin.
Throughout Texas and beyond, Blue Bell is mainly celebrated for those new flavors, its support of local celebrations, and July as National Ice Cream Month.
But the United States v. Paul Kruse draws the attention of those who the Western District Court in Austin has notified to report for jury duty next Monday. Blue Bell dominates the market in the West Texas counties where the court plans to seat ts jury.
Judge Robert Pitman held the likely last pre-trial hearing with the lawyers last Friday. The court did not release the minute entry documents for that session. Court documents seem to show Pitman did make decisions on at least three Motions in Limine.
Motions in limine ask the court to order the opposing party, its counsel, and witnesses not to talk about, or even mention, certain facts or evidence in the presence or hearing of the jury.
If the motion is granted, nobody is allowed to bring up those facts without first obtaining permission from the court, which must be requested outside the presence of the jury. To explore this concept, consider the following motion in limine definition.
In this case, defense attorneys for Kruse want to bar the government from presenting evidence or arguments that Blue Bell should have recalled ice cream sooner or more broadly than it did during a 2015 listeriosis outbreak that killed three and made 10 others very sick.
The defense also wants to strike certain information about sanitation issues at Bell Bell from the trial documents. Pre-trial issues about some details of the jury instructions are also disputed going into the trial.
As for that 13-year-old girl who came up with a new Blue Bell flavor, it was while drinking a strawberry lemonade that she came up with it. Strawberry ice cream swirled with lemonade sherbert is the new flavor
She wrote Blue Bell as part of a class project with her idea, never thinking they would implement it. But they did.
A federal Grand Jury indicted Kruse in 2020 after a five-year investigation.
The Austin-based federal Western District Court for Texas “finds the United States v. Kruse a complex criminal case.”
As a corporate entity, Blue Bell pleaded guilty in a related case in 2020 to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The company agreed to pay criminal penalties totaling $17.5 million and $2,1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities, including the military. The total $19.35 million in fines, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments was the second-largest amount ever paid in resolving a food safety matter.
Kruse is the only individual facing criminal charges due to the 2015 outbreak.
Blue Bell Creameries, founded in 1907 in Brenham, TX, today produces Blue Bell ice cream, an iconic Texan brand.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.