Cantaloupe farm owners plead guilty in listeriosis outbreak case

Oct. 30, 2013

The owners of a cantaloupe farm in Colorado, which was linked to a food poisoning outbreak in 2011, have pleaded guilty to selling adulterated production.

The owners of a cantaloupe farm in Colorado, which was linked to a food poisoning outbreak killing 33 people and sickening 147 in 2011, have pleaded guilty to selling adulterated production, Reuters reported.

On Oct. 22, brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, owners of Jensen Farms, admitted six counts of adulteration of food and several other charges. They pleaded guilty to distributing tainted fruit that caused one of the deadliest foodborne disease outbreaks in U.S. history. The Jensen brothers now face spending about a year in jail and paying fines of up to $250,000 for each count. They are due to be sentenced in January, the news source said.

RELATED: Listeria kills one in five affected

The outbreak was caused by listeria bacteria that was not removed when melons were washed. An investigation by the FDA found that the company had installed a new cantaloupe cleaning system, originally designed to clean potatoes. The system had a chlorine spray to sterilize the fruit but this equipment was never used. As a result, at least six shipments of contaminated melons were sent to 28 states. One of the lawyers representing the brothers claimed that they trusted the equipment and thought it was safe and ensured adequate protection.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh commented that the two brothers initially pleaded not guilty but later accepted a deal with prosecutors and admitted failing to prevent the deadly melons from reaching consumers across the country and causing a tragedy.

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