Eric and Ryan Jensen, the two cantaloupe farmers linked to one of the worst foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history, will plead guilty to charges specified in the agreement they have struck with prosecutors, the Associated Press reported.
The Colorado farmers have been accused of causing a listeria outbreak in 2011, as a result of which 33 people lost their lives. Federal prosecutors charged the brothers with the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. The investigators assigned to the case said that the melon contamination was likely to have been the result of unsanitary conditions in the Jensen Farms packing house, which was found to have old equipment and dirty water on the floor. Officials said that, in addition to killing 33 people, the contaminated fruit led to the hospitalization of 147 people across 28 states.
The Jensens initially entered a plea of not guilty but they notified the court earlier this week of their intention to change that, the AP said. It is not yet known what charges are included in their deal with prosecutors and the details are not expected to come to light before the hearing. The lawyers representing the defendants have asked the judge to hold the hearing on Oct. 22 but the date has not yet been set, the AP added.
A guilty verdict on the original charges would have sent the two brothers to prison for up to six years. They would also have been required to pay fines amounting to $1.5 million.