September 15, 2019

Plea Agreement Reached in Cantaloupe Listeria Case

Eric and Ryan Jensen, the brothers who owned Jensen Farms, the Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to the 2011 Listeria outbreak that sickened 147 people, killed 35 and caused one miscarriage have reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, according to a document filed filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver. The brothers, ages 37 and 33, who were arrested September 26th and charged with six counts of adulteration of a food and aiding and abetting, would each have faced up to six years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines, if convicted of all counts after a trial by jury.

Cantaloupe SlicesThe outbreak, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, was caused by unsanitary conditions on the farm including used packing equipment that was difficult to clean and standing water on the packing room floor, federal officials determined.  But in the summer of 2012, Eric Jensen, told the Dallas Morning News that the outbreak was something Mother Nature did” not something caused by conditions on the farm. “We didn’t have anything to do with it,” he told the paper.

“By bringing these charges, the Federal Prosecutor took an important step in enforcing our current laws to make food safer for the public.  Claiming ignorance when you sell deadly food products simply isn’t going to cut it anymore,” said Ryan Osterholm, an attorney with the national food safety law firm Pritzker Olsen which underwrites Food Poisoning Bulletin. “Although this comes far too late for my clients sickened and killed by the Jensen Brothers’ actions, it is nonetheless a very important event in food safety.  I have full confidence the deal will be fair.  The Jensen Brothers taking responsibility for their actions is a necessary step in the healing process for the countless people whose lives were changed by this Listeria outbreak.”

Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy May 25, 2012. Court documents show that the farm, based Holly, Colorado,  earned about $5 million a year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, had between 50 and 99 creditors and faced seven personal injury lawsuits and 12 wrongful death suits.



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