Cantaloupe Farmers Arrested in Listeria Outbreak That Killed 33
DENVER, Colorado -- Two brothers were arrested and charged with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce following the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in 2011 where people living in 28 states, including Florida, consumed contaminated cantaloupe, resulting in 33 deaths and 147 hospitalizations.
Eric Jensen, age 37, and Ryan Jensen, age 33, brothers who owned and operated Jensen Farms, located in Granada, Colorado, where taken into custody by U.S. Marshals in Denver on federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the Food and Drug Administration.
Court documents state that the defendants set up and maintained a processing center where cantaloupes were taken from the field and transferred to a conveyor system for cleaning, cooling and packaging. Federal officials charge that the equipment should have worked in such a way that the cantaloupe would be washed with sufficient anti-bacterial solutions so that the fruit was cleaned of bacteria in the process.
In May of 2011 the Jensen brothers allegedly changed their cantaloupe cleaning system. The new system, built to clean potatoes, was installed, and was to include a catch pan to which a chlorine spray could be included to clean the fruit of bacteria. Officials say that the chlorine spray, however, was never used and that, if used, would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of the fruit.
“As this case so tragically reminds us, food processors play a critical role in ensuring that our food is safe,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “They bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public. Where they fail to live up to that responsibility, and as these charges demonstrate, this office and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to act forcefully to enforce the law.”
These charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.