Farmers to plead guilty in listeria outbreak
By Colleen Slevin ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — Two Colorado cantaloupe farmers plan to plead guilty under a deal with federal prosecutors in connection with the 2011 listeria outbreak that killed 33 people in the nation’s deadliest case of food-borne illness in 25 years.
Eric and Ryan Jensen were charged last month with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration said the rare move was intended to send a message to food producers.
Criminal charges are rare in food-borne illnesses, but the FDA under President Barack Obama has been more aggressive in pursuing farmers and food processors for alleged lapses.
The brothers filed documents on Tuesday notifying the court that they would plead guilty to unspecified charges under the agreements. Details typically aren’t disclosed until the hearing where defendants formally change their pleas.
Ryan Jensen’s lawyer, Richard Banta, declined to comment yesterday, and Eric Jensen’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call.
A prosecutors’ spokesman wasn’t available to comment because of the government shutdown.
- According to the FDA, conditions at Jensen Farms in southeastern Colorado led to the 2011 outbreak. Federal investigators said the melons likely were contaminated in the farm’s packing house because of dirty water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean equipment.
Officials said people in 28 states ate the contaminated fruit, and 147 required hospitalization.
The Jensens each face up to six years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
There has been so much interest in this case over the last two years. People continued to wonder for a long time about the GMO possibility of it all. Because I had questioned. A commenter said I was way off base — that cantaloupes had not been genetically modified. I wasn’t convinced, but no assurance came for so long. Truthfully, I still don’t know the answer to that, but this case has been resolved, put to bed.
These two men have nice faces, looks like a couple of men who made a big mistake and in fact, were careless – or someone was. It cost lives and sickened many and worried countless thousands. I don’t seek blood, and vengeance is wasted energy, but I do not fault our president for extracting justice. When grievous errors are made, there should be a price to pay. Things such as food and medicine etc which can affect us all so deeply must be carefully overseen, which obviously, it has not been. Thank you Mr. President for caring enough to do the right thing. Jan)